Sarah Cannon - April 10, 2019

Thyroid cancer is the twelfth most common cancer in the United States. In 2018, it's estimated that approximately three percent of all new cancer cases were thyroid cancer, and, according to the American Cancer Society, there will be more than 52,000 new cases of thyroid cancer in the United States in 2019. The prevalence of thyroid cancer is nearly three times higher in women than men, and nearly twice as high in Caucasians than African Americans, with people of Asian and Pacific Islander descent having the second highest incidence rate.

There are four types of thyroid cancer:

  • Papillary thyroid cancer- the most common type, accounting for approximately 80 percent of all cases, can occur at any age and tends to grow slowly, often spreading to lymph nodes in the neck.
  • Follicular thyroid cancer- forms in the follicular cells in the thyroid and tends to occur in older patients, accounting for about 10 to 15 percent of all cases.
  • Medullary thyroid cancer- develops in the C cells of the thyroid (the cells that make the hormone calcitonin, which helps maintain blood calcium levels).
  • Anaplastic thyroid cancer- a rare, aggressive type of thyroid cancer with the poorest prognosis.

Signs and Symptoms of Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer may not have early signs. As the tumor grows, it can cause symptoms such as the following:

  • A lump or swelling in the neck
  • Trouble breathing
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Hoarseness in the throat

To check for thyroid cancer, the following tests and procedures may be used:

Because the type of thyroid cancer can be hard to diagnose, biopsy samples should be checked by a pathologist who has experience diagnosing thyroid cancer.

Genetic testing is available for multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (MEN2) a genetic syndrome associated with medullary thyroid cancer.

Risk Factors for Thyroid Cancer

Although there are no routine screening tests for thyroid cancer, there are factors that can increase the risk of developing the disease. These include:

If you have questions about the signs, symptoms and screenings for thyroid cancer, call askSARAH at (844) 482-4812 to speak to a nurse who is specially-trained to help with your cancer questions.

It is important to know that the information in this post, including Sarah Cannon’s recommendations for screening, is accurate as of the publishing date.


National Cancer Institute
American Thyroid Association
Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program