ZocdocAnswersCan a thyroid evaluation tell me whether I have thyroid cancer?

Question

Can a thyroid evaluation tell me whether I have thyroid cancer?

How else is thyroid cancer detected? I'm male, 50.

Answer

Determining whether or not someone has thyroid cancer usually begins when a lump is found in the thyroid. This lump is usually asymptomatic and is picked up initially either by the patient or by their doctor. One a thyroid lump has been detected, it will need to be worked up to determine whether there is cancer. Sometimes this workup will begin with a thyroid scan or a thyroid ultrasound to better define the lump. Most of these lumps will need a either a fine needle biopsy (where cells are sucked out of the lump with a needle) or an open biopsy (where a surgeon directly removes tissue). This tissue will then be examined under a microscope by a pathologist to determine if cancer is present. If cancer is present, most are treated initially by removing the thyroid gland surgically. The subtype of cancer and whether it has spread at all will determine the extent of the surgery. After surgery, depending on the subtype of thyroid cancer and whether there has been spread, attacking any residual thyroid tissue with radioactive medications or chemotherapy medications may be needed. If you are just at the beginning of this process because a thyroid lump has been found, you should be reassured that most lumps are not in fact cancerous although the workup is necessary. Talk to your primary care doctor for more information.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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