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Cancer of the Thyroid Diagnosis

A doctor examines a man’s throat for signs of thyroid cancer A physical examination is one of the procedures that may be used to diagnose thyroid cancer.

How is Thyroid Cancer Diagnosed?

If there are symptoms, a doctor will feel the patient's thyroid and check for lumps in the neck. The doctor may order blood tests and special scans to see whether a lump in the thyroid is making too many hormones. The doctor may want to take a small amount of tissue from the thyroid. This is called a biopsy. To do this, a small needle is inserted into the thyroid at the base of the throat and some tissue is drawn out. This may need to be done under ultrasound-guidance. The tissue is then looked at under a microscope to see whether it contains cancer. Newer genetic tests of these biopsy samples are now available to help with the diagnosis of biopsies that are difficult to assess by visual inspection alone.

For certain types of cancer, specifically medullary thyroid carcinoma, tests have been developed to determine who has a predisposing genetic defect long before any cancer appears. It is important that the patient and his or her family members (children, grandchildren, parents, brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews) see a doctor about tests that will show if the abnormal gene is present. These tests are confidential and can help the doctor help patients. Family members, including young children, who don't have cancer, but do have this abnormal gene, may reduce the chance of developing medullary thyroid cancer by having surgery to safely remove the thyroid gland (thyroidectomy).

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