How Does Thyroid Cancer Affect the Body?

Thyroid cancer – as the name suggests – develops in the thyroid gland. This gland is located at the bottom of the neck. If a tumor develops in the thyroid gland, it can lead to:

  • A palpable lump or swelling in the neck
  • A rough, scratchy or hoarse-sounding voice
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • A chronic cough

It’s also common for thyroid cancer to make a person feel weak (fatigued), even when he or she is not participating in physically demanding activities. Inadvertent weight loss is another common symptom.

If surgery is performed to remove the thyroid gland, the body will no longer be able to produce its own thyroid hormones. A person who has undergone thyroid surgery may take medications for the rest of his or her life to avoid the hormonal imbalances that might otherwise occur. Calcium and vitamin D supplements may also be necessary if the parathyroid gland is removed as well.

Metastatic thyroid cancer

Thyroid tumors are usually detected before they have the chance to spread. However, abnormal cells can sometimes travel outside of the thyroid gland. If these cells reach the lymph nodes, cancer can spread throughout the body and accumulate in other organs. This is known as metastasis.

The most common locations for metastatic thyroid cancer are the lungs, liver and bones. If tumors develop in these (or other) parts of the body, complications such as pain, swelling and organ failure can occur.

Talk to an oncologist about your symptoms

If you want to know more about the effects of thyroid cancer, you are encouraged to talk with an oncologist who specializes in treating the condition. At Moffitt Cancer Center, patients can consult with experienced endocrinologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, head and neck surgeons and otolaryngologists in a single location. No referral is required to request an appointment; call 1-888-663-3888 or submit a new patient registration form online.