Skip to content
Massachusetts Eye and Ear
/assets/MEE/images/mgb-default-thumb.png Thyroid Cancer

Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery

Thyroid Cancer

Phone number forFor Appointments


Thyroid cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer, representing 3.6 percent of all new cancer cases each year. It affects the thyroid, which is a butterfly-shaped gland at the base of the neck responsible for controlling your metabolism. Thyroid cancer occurs in 5 to 10 percent of thyroid nodules and has increased in prevalence over the last 30 years.

Occurring more often in woman, many cases of thyroid cancer present no symptoms other than a lump in the neck. This lump may represent a thyroid nodule or an enlarged lymph node that contains thyroid cancer. Risk factors include radiation exposure and a family history of thyroid cancer.

The prognosis of thyroid cancer is generally favorable, with surgery to remove the thyroid gland and any involved lymph nodes usually recommended. Lymph node metastasis in thyroid cancer is common and is present in more than 30 percent of patients presenting with the most common type of thyroid cancer, papillary thyroid cancer.

More aggressive thyroid cancers with variable prognoses include follicular, medullary, poorly differentiated, and anaplastic thyroid cancers.

4Common Symptoms

  • Lump in the neck area
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Changes in the voice (hoarseness)
  • Swallowing difficulties

Diagnosis and Treatment

Management of thyroid cancer begins with preoperative evaluation, including a full head, neck, and laryngeal exam. Some thyroid nodules with cancer cannot be felt on exam and are diagnosed with a needle biopsy instead.

A fine needle biopsy of the thyroid nodule is performed either by a surgeon or radiologist with ultrasound-guided biopsy. When a diagnosis of thyroid cancer is made, subsequent evaluation includes radiographic studies that include both high-resolution ultrasound of the thyroid and neck and/or fine cut CT scanning of the thyroid and entire neck area.

To treat thyroid cancer, surgery to remove the thyroid gland and any involved lymph node is usually recommended. Our surgeons are well prepared for all cases and can perform complex procedures with a low risk of complications. Although the prognosis for most thyroid cancers is favorable, long-term follow-up is needed with the surgeon and endocrinologist.

Meet Our Team

The Thyroid and Parathyroid Endocrine Surgery Division is staffed by surgeons, radiologists, and other medical specialists skilled in the evaluation and treatment of problems of the thyroid and parathyroid. Our combination of medical expertise allows us to treat patients of all thyroid and parathyroid conditions.

Did you know?