Thyroid Cancer


Mercy’s specialists provide expert diagnosis and treatment for thyroid cancer. We take a team approach to cancer care, bringing together endocrinologists, surgeons, nuclear medicine doctors, oncologists and other professionals to provide comprehensive, multidisciplinary care.

The thyroid gland produces hormones that help regulate the body’s use of energy, such as metabolism and body temperature.

Risk Factors for Developing Thyroid Cancer

Some cases of thyroid cancer are linked to inherited conditions, but most have an unknown cause. We do know that thyroid cancer risk factors include:

  • Gender: women are three times more likely to develop thyroid cancer than men.
  • Radiation exposure: exposure to radiation from medical treatments or the environment may raise risk, especially if exposure happened during childhood.
  • Family history: thyroid cancer risk is higher in people who have a parent, sibling or child with the disease.
  • Inherited disorders: children who inherit the gene mutation for familial medullary thyroid cancer are very likely to develop this type of cancer. Genetic testing can detect this mutation, and the thyroid gland can be removed to prevent cancer.

If you believe you may have an increased risk for thyroid cancer, talk with your physician.

Symptoms of Thyroid Cancer

Symptoms of thyroid cancer include:

  • A lump or swelling on the thyroid (thyroid nodule)
  • Pain at the front of the neck
  • Changes in the voice
  • Swallowing pain or difficulty
  • Difficulty breathing due to restricted airway
  • Constant cough

Having any of these symptoms does not mean you have thyroid cancer. Still, see your doctor to identify the cause and get treated if necessary.

Diagnosing Thyroid Cancer

Mercy physicians use several diagnostic tests to check for thyroid cancer. If you have symptoms, we may recommend one or more of the following tests:

  • Blood test to check for abnormal hormone levels that may indicate a thyroid problem
  • Biopsy to test a sample of thyroid tissue or nodule for cancer
  • Imaging exams including ultrasound, computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to create images of thyroid nodules that can be closely reviewed

Treatment for Thyroid Cancer

If you are diagnosed with thyroid cancer, your Mercy team of cancer specialists will develop a personalized treatment plan. Mercy offers the most advanced treatments for thyroid cancer; your specific cancer plan will depend on the stage of your cancer, if it has spread, and your overall health.

The most common treatment is surgery to remove all or part of the thyroid. Thyroid cancer surgery options include:

  • Lobectomy: lobectomy removes only the part of the thyroid where cancer is found.
  • Near-total thyroidectomy: this surgery removes most of the thyroid gland.
  • Total thyroidectomy: the entire thyroid gland is removed.
  • Lymphadenectomy: cancerous lymph nodes in the neck also are removed.

Patients who have most or all of their thyroid gland removed may need to take thyroid hormone replacement medication for the rest of their lives.

Radiation therapy may be used after surgery or alone to destroy cancer cells without harming surrounding healthy tissue.

  • Radioactive Iodine (RAI) therapy: Radioactive iodine is swallowed The thyroid is the only part of the body that absorbs iodine, so cancer cells can be killed without harm to anywhere else.
  • In rare cases external radiation is also used in the treatment of thyroid cancer.

Drugs that regulate thyroid hormone levels may be used to prevent cancer from spreading or recurring.

Mercy’s cancer teams use the most advanced treatments and technologies to eliminate thyroid cancer and prevent it from returning. We know that a diagnosis of cancer is upsetting, and we’ll care for you with expertise and compassionate support from diagnosis to recovery.

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