Thyroid Cancer - Symptoms and Signs

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 09/2016

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about body changes and other things that can signal a problem that may need medical care. To see other pages, use the menu.

It is common for people with thyroid cancer to have few or no symptoms. Thyroid cancers are often diagnosed by routine examination of the neck or are unintentionally found by x-rays or other imaging scans that were performed for other reasons. People with thyroid cancer may experience the following symptoms or signs. Sometimes, people with thyroid cancer do not have any of these changes. Or, the cause of a symptom may be another medical condition that is not cancer.

  • A lump in the front of the neck, near the Adam's apple

  • Hoarseness

  • Swollen glands in the neck

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Pain in the throat or neck

  • A cough that persists and is not caused by a cold

If you are concerned about any changes you experience, please talk with your doctor. Your doctor will ask how long and how often you’ve been experiencing the symptom(s), in addition to other questions. This is to help find out the cause of the problem, called a diagnosis.

These symptoms may be caused by thyroid cancer; other thyroid problems, such as a goiter; or a condition not related to the thyroid, such as an infection.

If cancer is diagnosed, relieving symptoms remains an important part of cancer care and treatment. This may also be called symptom management, palliative care, or supportive care. Be sure to talk with your health care team about symptoms you experience, including any new symptoms or a change in symptoms.

The next section in this guide is Diagnosis. It explains what tests may be needed to learn more about the cause of the symptoms. Or, use the menu to choose another section to continue reading this guide.