What is Thyroid Cancer?
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland at the front of the neck, just below the larynx (voice box) and on top of the trachea (windpipe).
The thyroid gland tends to develop nodules (small lumps). In fact, at least half of the population has nodules – 95% of which are benign (non-cancerous). If you have a nodule, make an appointment with your doctor to have it checked.
Sometimes though, nodules are not benign – and are cancerous. This happens when cells mutate, or become ‘abnormal’. Why this happens is not completely understood. Thyroid cancer is normally slow-growing, and it may take many years for a nodule to become apparent on touch. People may also have other symptoms, like a hoarse throat or a feeling of fullness in the neck.
If you’ve been recently diagnosed with thyroid cancer, know that you’re not alone. AND, it’s often curable. What’s important is to be engaged in your own care, which includes:
- Being informed. This website is one way to learn about your condition and treatment options.
- Asking for help. Don’t be afraid to reach out for support. Thyroid Cancer Canada provides support by telephone, email, and on our patients’ online forum. Your family and friends, as well as other community resources <link: community support> may also be helpful.
- Working with your doctor. Ask questions, get copies of your results/reports, and follow-up if you don’t have the answers you need.
Questions to ask your doctor:
- What type of thyroid cancer do I have?
- How extensive and/or aggressive is it?
- What "stage" is my cancer?
- Do I need surgery, and if so, what does this mean for me?
- Do I require any other treatment, such as radioactive iodine (RAI)?
- What follow-up will I have in the years to come?
- Do I need to take Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) to restore my thyroid hormone levels? How do you monitor if my levels are OK?
- How often will I see you?
- How can I reach you if I don't feel well or have questions?