Thyroid Cancer: Symptoms and Signs

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 08/2023

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about the changes and medical problems that can be a sign of thyroid cancer. Use the menu to see other pages.

What are the symptoms and signs of thyroid cancer?

It is common for people with thyroid cancer to have few or no symptoms or signs. Symptoms are changes that you can feel in your body. Signs are changes in something measured, like taking your blood pressure or doing a lab test. Together, symptoms and signs can help describe a medical problem.

Thyroid cancers are often diagnosed by routine examination of the neck during a general physical exam. They are also unintentionally found by x-rays or other imaging scans that were performed for other reasons. People with thyroid cancer may experience one or more of the following symptoms or signs. Sometimes, people with thyroid cancer do not have any of symptoms and signs described below. Or, the cause of a symptom or sign may be a medical condition that is not cancer, such as other thyroid problems or a condition that is not related to the thyroid.

  • 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 try to understand what is causing your symptom(s). They may do an exam and order tests to understand the cause of the problem, which is called a diagnosis.

If cancer is diagnosed, relieving symptoms remains an important part of cancer care and treatment. Managing symptoms may also be called "palliative and supportive care," which is not the same as hospice care given at the end of life. This type of care focuses on managing symptoms and supporting people who face serious illnesses, such as cancer. You can receive palliative and supportive care at any time during cancer treatment. Learn more in this guide's section on Coping with Treatment.

The next section in this guide is Diagnosis. It explains what tests may be needed to learn more about the cause of the symptoms. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.