Thyroid Cancer FAQs

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, Moffitt Cancer Center is here for you at every step of the way. One of the most important things you can do at this time – other than consulting with an experienced oncologist – is to educate yourself about your condition. Having an idea of what to expect can help you prepare for what lies ahead, from starting treatment to seeking out supportive care and everything in between.

It’s important to remember that everyone’s experience is different. Your oncologist can give you tailored advice that takes into account the type and stage of your cancer, your age and medical history, your treatment history and other important variables. However, general information can be helpful, especially as you start to learn more about your diagnosis. The following thyroid cancer FAQs can help you better understand the condition, its most common symptoms and how it can be treated:

  • How does thyroid cancer affect the body?
    Thyroid cancer can affect the body in a number of ways. For instance, a thyroid tumor itself can cause symptoms that affect the body, as can any treatments that the patient undergoes. Cancer that metastasizes to other areas of the body will have further affects, as well.
  • What is papillary thyroid cancer?
    Papillary thyroid cancer is the most common type of thyroid cancer. This cancer type is named for the way its cells appear under a microscope. Learn about this cancer and how it is treated at Moffitt Cancer Center.
  • Can hyperthyroidism be a thyroid cancer symptom?
    Although up to 20% of people with thyroid cancer have hyperthyroidism, it is not considered to be a primary symptom of the disease. Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland produces an excessive amount of a hormone called thyroxine. The most common symptoms of thyroid cancer are a chronic cough, difficulty breathing or swallowing, neck pain, vocal changes and a palpable lump in the neck.
  • How do I manage the side effects of thyroid cancer treatment?
    The side effects of thyroid cancer treatment vary based on the type of treatment being used. And, not every patient responds to treatment in the same way. If the thyroid gland is surgically removed, medications will be needed to replace the hormones that are no longer naturally produced. Other treatments can cause a variety of other side effects that can be managed with medications and other means.
  • What are the long-term effects of thyroid cancer?
    A positive outcome and favorable quality of life is more likely when thyroid cancer is diagnosed and treated early. Some possible health-related complications of thyroid cancer and its treatment include osteoporosis, hypertension, heart rhythm disorders and heart valve disease. The risk of long-term effects of thyroid cancer can be minimized by seeking care at a high-volume cancer center.
  • What is metastatic thyroid cancer?
    If thyroid cancer goes undetected or untreated, the cancer can grow and spread to other areas of the body. When thyroid cancer advances like this, it is called metastatic thyroid cancer. Thyroid cancer is often detected in its earlier stages before it has metastasized, but if it does spread, the cancer can be treated with surgery and/or other forms of treatment such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
  • Where does metastatic thyroid cancer spread to?
    When thyroid cancer reaches advanced stages, it most commonly spreads to the lungs, bones, liver or brain. Your thyroid cancer treatment team can use imaging scans and other diagnostic testing to determine whether your cancer has metastasized to other areas of the body.
  • When does metastatic thyroid cancer show symptoms?
    By the time thyroid cancer has advanced enough to metastasize to other areas of the body, it is likely that many symptoms are already present. Thyroid cancer symptoms typically develop at earlier stages, before it has spread. The most common first sign of thyroid cancer is a palpable lump at the base of the neck.
  • What is anaplastic thyroid cancer?
    Anaplastic thyroid cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the thyroid gland – it is the most uncommon type of thyroid cancer, accounting for only 1% of all thyroid cancer cases. Anaplastic thyroid cancer is considered to be the most aggressive form of thyroid cancer because it typically spreads quickly, which can make it more difficult to catch early.
  • What causes thyroid nodules?
    Thyroid nodules are lumps that grow in the thyroid gland at the base of the neck. Many thyroid nodules are benign and not a cause of concern. Some medical issues that can cause thyroid nodules include thyroiditis, overgrowing thyroid tissue, iodine deficiency, cysts and multinodular goiters. Thyroid cancer is another cause for nodules, but malignant thyroid nodules are rarer.

To get in-depth answers to any questions you might have about thyroid cancer, you can consult with one of the experienced oncologists at Moffitt Cancer Center. You do not need a physician’s referral to request an appointment; you can do so by calling 1-888-663-3488 or submitting a new patient registration form online.