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Information About Endocrine Cancers: Thyroid Tumors

What are thyroid tumors?

The thyroid gland is located in the front of the neck at the base of the throat. Thyroid tumors are either benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous) growths. Examples of benign tumors are adenomas, which secrete thyroid hormone. Malignant tumors are more rare and are more common in women than in men. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), about 22,000 cases of thyroid cancer will be diagnosed in the US in 2003.

What are thyroid adenomas?

Thyroid adenomas grow from the cell layer that lines the inner surface of the thyroid gland. The adenoma itself secretes thyroid hormone. If the adenoma secretes enough thyroid hormone, it may cause hyperthyroidism. Thyroid adenomas may be treated if they cause hyperthyroidism. Treatment may include surgery to remove part of the thyroid (the overactive nodule).

What are cancerous thyroid tumors?

Cancer of the thyroid occurs more often in people who have undergone radiation to the head, neck, or chest. However, most thyroid cancer can be cured with appropriate treatment. Thyroid cancer usually appears as small growths (nodules) within the thyroid gland. Some signs that a nodule may be cancerous include:

What are the different types of thyroid cancer?

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) describes the major types of thyroid cancer as follows:

What are the symptoms of thyroid cancer?

Early thyroid cancer may not cause any symptoms. As the cancer grows, one of the first signs of thyroid cancer is a painless lump or swollen lymph nodes in the neck. The following are the most common symptoms of thyroid cancer. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Other symptoms may include:
However, the symptoms of thyroid cancer may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

Diagnosis of thyroid cancer:

In addition to a complete medical history and medical examination, diagnostic procedures for thyroid cancer may include:

Treatment for thyroid cancer:

Specific treatment for thyroid tumors will be determined by your physician based on:

Treatment may include one or more of the following:

Stanford Medicine Resources:

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