Thyroid cancers

Cancers and tumours of the thyroid gland

HCA UK's experts can help to diagnose and treat a range of thyroid cancers, including thyroid tumours


The thyroid gland is a small gland located in your neck that produces hormones. Tumours can sometimes develop in the thyroid gland. They tend to be benign (non-cancerous) but others are malignant (cancerous). There is a risk a malignant tumour can spread into nearby tissues and other organs (parts of your body).

Need to know

  • Symptoms of thyroid tumours icon plus

    Malignant (cancerous) thyroid tumours are rare and are most common in people in their 30s and those aged over 60.Women are more likely to develop it than men. Tumours of the thyroid gland can be removed by surgery in most cases. The thyroid gland makes the hormones T3 and T4, which control your metabolic rate, and calcitonin which regulates the amount of calcium in your blood. The most common symptoms of thyroid tumours are:

    • a painless lump (swelling) in the neck
    • hoarse voice
    • sore throat
    • difficulty swallowing

    In rare cases, thyroid cancer can cause more unusual symptoms, such as loose bowel movements or flushing (redness) of the face.

  • Diagnosis icon plus

    Thyroid tumours can be diagnosed in several ways. Your GP or consultant will discuss your symptoms with you. Tests they may recommend include:

    • blood test (to determine how well the thyroid gland is working)
    • biopsy (a small sample of cells may be taken from the thyroid tumour and examined under a microscope)
    • CT scan or ultrasound of the thyroid tumour
  • Potential treatment options icon plus

    Treatment options for thyroid tumours depend on the type of cancer you have, whether it has spread and your overall health and fitness. These may include:

    • Surgery to remove all or part of the thyroid gland.
    • Radioactive iodine treatment, where a radioactive substance is swallowed and travels through your blood to kill the cancer cells.
    • Chemotherapy to prevent the growth of cancer.
    • Radiotherapy to kill cancer cells through radiation.

Thyroid cancers types

Differentiated thyroid cancer

Nine out of 10 cases of thyroid cancer are differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC). There are two groups of DTC – papillary and follicular thyroid cancer.

Papillary thyroid cancer

This is the most common type of thyroid cancer. It is usually found in women and young people.

Follicular thyroid cancer

Most often diagnosed in middle-aged people, follicular thyroid cancer can sometimes spread to other parts of the body, such as the lungs or bones.

Medullary thyroid cancer

This is a rare type of thyroid cancer than can run in families.

Hurthle cell thyroid cancer

Hurthle cells are rare abnormal cells that can develop in the thyroid gland. It affects women rather than men and people around the age of 50.

Anaplastic thyroid cancer

Anaplastic thyroid cancer is usually found in older people and is more common in women.

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This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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