Awareness & Prevention

Thyroid cancer does not always cause symptoms; often, the first sign of thyroid cancer is a thyroid nodule. Only about 5 to 17 percent of thyroid nodules harbor thyroid cancer; most are benign (noncancerous) and cause no problems if left untreated.

Many thyroid cancers are detected in the early stages when patients or their doctors find nodules in their thyroids either during a physical exam or as an incidental finding on a radiological study. Some doctors suggest you examine your neck carefully twice a year. Ask your primary care doctor to include a cancer-related exam in your annual check-up.


Although thyroid cancer most often is discovered early and is not associated with any particular symptoms other than a lump (nodule) in the region of the thyroid, sometimes symptoms may include:

  • Change in voice or hoarseness
  • Difficulty swallowing solid foods
  • Persistently swollen (non-tender) lymph nodes in the neck
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pain in the front of the neck

Risk Factors

Although the causes of thyroid cancer are not well understood, there are several factors that can increase your risk of developing the disease: 

  • Radiation exposure – Radiation treatments to the head and neck, especially during childhood, can lead to thyroid cancer. Tests that use radiation to make a medical diagnosis – such as dental X-rays or mammograms – do not cause thyroid cancer.
  • Gender and age – For unknown reasons, thyroid cancers occur about three times more often in women than in men, although thyroid nodules that occur in men and children are more indicative of thyroid cancer than those that occur in women.
  • Family history of thyroid cancer – Some types of thyroid cancer are associated with genetics. The management of thyroid nodules is different in patients who have first-degree relatives with thyroid cancer.

Request an Appointment

To schedule an appointment with a specialist in thyroid nodules or thyroid cancer, complete our online form or call 214-645-8300.