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Thyroid cancer symptoms

In its early stages, thyroid cancer may not show any signs or symptoms. In many cases, thyroid cancer is discovered during a routine neck examination or during an imaging scan performed to diagnose another condition.

Early warning signs of thyroid cancer

The most common early sign of thyroid cancer is an unusual lump, nodule or swelling in the neck. If you notice a new or growing lump, you should see your doctor, who can run additional tests to identify the cause and determine if it is a tumor. Most nodules on the thyroid are usually benign, but it is important to have any unusual growths examined by a health care professional.

Other early warning signs of thyroid cancer include:

  • Fatigue
  • Hoarseness
  • Swollen glands in the neck
  • A cough that persists and is not caused by a cold

Other possible symptoms of thyroid cancer include:

Neck pain: In many cases, neck pain starts in the front. In some cases, the neck pain may extend all the way to the ears.

Voice changes: Experiencing hoarseness or other voice changes that do not go away could be a sign of thyroid cancer.

Breathing problems: Sometimes thyroid cancer patients say it feels like they are breathing through a straw. This breathing difficulty is often a symptom of the disease.

Trouble swallowing: A growth or nodule on the thyroid gland may interfere with swallowing.

Recurrent thyroid cancer

Signs and symptoms of thyroid cancer recurrence may include:

  • Neck swelling or a lump in the neck that may grow rapidly
  • Neck pain that starts in the front of the neck and sometimes extends to the ears
  • Trouble breathing or swallowing
  • Voice changes or hoarseness
  • Continuous cough not related to a cold

Early thyroid cancer relapse symptoms may not be apparent, so regular screenings and follow-up appointments are strongly recommended. At the follow-up appointments, you may undergo a physical exam, blood tests or imaging tests, such as radioiodine scans or ultrasounds. These tests are designed to screen for cancer recurrence and other health concerns. Make sure to discuss with your doctor any symptoms you may be experiencing. The timing and frequency of recommended follow-up appointments depend on many factors, including the stage and size of the original tumor.

As for the recurrence rate, up to 30 percent of thyroid cancer patients may develop cancer recurrence. Of these patients, an estimated 80 percent develop thyroid cancer recurrence only in the neck area. The other 20 percent diagnosed with recurrent disease develop distant metastases, tumors that form in other areas of the body, such as the lungs, liver and bone. A number of treatment options are available for primary and recurrent thyroid cancer, but early detection is key.

Next topic: What are the types of thyroid cancer?

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