Thyroid Cancer Services

Thyroid cancer can happen at any age, it is not common around 3,500 people in the UK are diagnosed with thyroid cancer each year. Unfortunately more women than in men get Thyroid cancer.


What is the Thyroid gland?

The thyroid is a small gland in the front of your neck, just below your voicebox (larynx). It is made up of 2 parts called lobes. The lobes are connected by a thin piece of thyroid tissue called the isthmus.

The thyroid gland is part of the endocrine system. This system makes hormones that help control the way your body functions. Your thyroid gland makes the following hormones:

  • thyroxine (T4)
  • triiodothyronine(T3)
  • calcitonin

This video from Cancer Research describes different parts of the throat.

Symptoms of thyroid cancer

The most common symptom of thyroid cancer is a painless lump in the neck. Most thyroid lumps are not cancerous (benign) but it is important to get any lump checked.

Other symptoms include:

  • a hoarse voice that has no obvious cause and does not go away after a few weeks
  • difficulty swallowing – caused by a thyroid tumour pressing on the gullet (oesophagus)
  • difficulty breathing – caused by a thyroid tumour pressing on the windpipe (trachea)
  • pain in the front of the neck.

You should see your doctor as soon as possible if you notice any of these symptoms.

Thyroid cancer treatment

The treatment you have depends on the:

  • type of thyroid cancer
  • the stage of the cancer
  • your general health

After your test results, you and your doctor will start to talk about your treatment options. Your doctor usually meets with other specialists called a multidisciplinary team (MDT) to discuss the best possible treatment for you.

The MDT look at national treatment guidelines or the latest evidence for the type of cancer you have; if you have any treatment preferences your doctor will tell them about this.

Thyroid surgery is usually the main treatment for most types of thyroid cancer and ofthen you will be offered other treatment after surgery.

Thyroid cancer treatment outlook

The outlook varies depending on the type of thyroid cancer and how early it was diagnosed. Around 9 in every 10 people are alive 5 years after a diagnosis of thyroid cancer; many of these are cured and will have a normal lifespan.

At present the outlook is:

  • more than 9 in 10 people with papillary carcinoma live at least 5 years after diagnosis
  • more than 9 in 10 people with follicular carcinoma live at least 5 years after diagnosis
  • more than 7 in 10 men, and around 9 in 10 women with medullary thyroid carcinoma live at least 5 years after diagnosis
  • around 1 in 10 people with anaplastic thyroid carcinoma live at least 5 years after diagnosis

Up to 1 in 4 people treated for thyroid cancer are later diagnosed with cancer in another part of the body, such as the lungs or bones, but cancer can often be treated again if this happens.

This video from Cancer Research shows the story of one of a thyroid cancer surviver.