Thyroid cancer occurs when abnormal cells begin to grow in the thyroid gland. This gland is shaped like a butterfly and is located in the front of your neck. It makes hormones that regulate the way your body uses energy, and that help make your body work as it should.

Most people who have thyroid cancer do very well, because the cancer is usually found early and the treatments work well. After it’s treated, thyroid cancer may come back, sometimes many years after treatment.

The exact cause of thyroid cancer isn’t known. Like other cancers, changes in the DNA of cells seem to play a role. These DNA changes may include changes that are inherited as well as those that happen as you get older. People who have been exposed to a lot of radiation have a greater chance of getting thyroid  cancer.  

Some people may not have any symptoms. A physician may find a lump or nodule in the neck during a routine physical exam or during a test for something else. If you have a lump in your neck, your physician may do an ultrasound or the thyroid gland, possibly followed by a biopsy to check for cancer cells.

Thyroid cancer is treated with surgery and often radioactive iodine. It rarely needs radiation therapy or chemotherapy. What treatment you need depends on your age, the type of thyroid cancer you have, and the stage of your disease. 

Your doctor may also remove lymph nodes in your neck to see if cancer has spread beyond the thyroid. CoxHealth's Adult Medicine & Endocrinology Specialists clinic is accredited by the American Institute for Medical Ultrasound for performing ultrasounds and parathyroid ultrasounds. It’s also the only clinic in southwest Missouri with endocrinologists certified by the Endocrine Certification in Neck Ultrasound program.