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Thyroid cancer

Thyroid cancer is a rare type of cancer that affects the thyroid gland, a small gland at the base of the neck that produces hormones.

It's most common in people in their 30s and those over the age of 60. Women are 2 to 3 times more likely to develop it than men.

Thyroid cancer is usually treatable and in many cases can be cured completely, although it can sometimes come back after treatment.

Symptoms of thyroid cancer

Symptoms of thyroid cancer can include:

Find out more about the symptoms of thyroid cancer.

When to get medical advice

See a GP if you have symptoms of thyroid cancer. The symptoms may be caused by less serious conditions, such as an enlarged thyroid (goitre), so it's important to get them checked.

A GP will examine your neck and can organise a blood test to check how well your thyroid is working.

If they think you could have cancer or they're not sure what's causing your symptoms, you'll be referred to a hospital specialist for more tests.

Find out more about how thyroid cancer is diagnosed.

Types of thyroid cancer

There are 4 main types of thyroid cancer:

Papillary and follicular carcinomas are sometimes known as differentiated thyroid cancers. They tend to be easier to treat than the other types.

Causes of thyroid cancer

Thyroid cancer happens when there's a change to the DNA inside thyroid cells which causes them to grow uncontrollably and produce a lump.

It's not usually clear what causes this change, but there are a number of things that can increase your risk.

These include:

Treatments for thyroid cancer

Treatment for thyroid cancer depends on the type of thyroid cancer you have and how far it has spread.

The main treatments are:

After treatment, you'll have follow-up appointments to check whether the cancer has come back.

Read more about how thyroid cancer is treated.

Outlook for thyroid cancer

Around 9 in every 10 people are alive 5 years after a diagnosis of thyroid cancer. Many of these are cured and will have a normal lifespan.

But the outlook varies depending on the type of thyroid cancer and how early it was diagnosed. At present the outlook is:

Up to 1 in 4 people treated for thyroid cancer are later diagnosed with cancer in another part of the body, such as the lungs or bones, but cancer can often be treated again if this happens.