Thyroid cancer is cancer of the thyroid gland. This gland makes thyroid hormone, and it is found in the front of the neck. Thyroid gland tumors often appear as bumps in the neck, called nodules. In most cases, thyroid nodules are not cancerous. However, those that are cancerous have the potential to spread throughout the body.
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There are several types of thyroid cancer, including:
- Papillary carcinoma (most common type)—It usually grows very slowly and often spreads to lymph nodes in the neck. If caught early, this type of thyroid cancer is often curable.
- Follicular carcinoma (second most common type)—It usually stays in the thyroid gland, but can spread to other parts of the body, such as the lungs and bones. It does not usually spread to the lymph nodes. If caught early, this type of thyroid cancer is often curable.
- Anaplastic carcinoma (rare form of thyroid cancer)—It quickly invades the neck and other parts of the body and is often fatal.
Medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC)—This cancer develops from cells in the thyroid gland called C-cells.
MTC often spreads to the lymph nodes, lungs, or liver before a thyroid nodule has been discovered. There are two types of MTC:
- Sporadic MTC
- Familial medullary thyroid carcinoma (FMTC)
- Thyroid lymphoma (rare type of thyroid cancer)—Many cases occur in people who have a disease called Hashimoto's thyroiditis.
Last reviewedOctober 2012by Igor Puzanov, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.