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Find out about possible symptoms of thyroid cancer and when to see your doctor.

A lump in your neck

The thyroid is at the base of the neck. Thyroid lumps are very common. But only about 1 in 20 thyroid lumps (5%) are cancer. Older people in particular can have small lumps in their thyroid gland called nodules. As many as 9 out of 10 women over the age of 70 (90%) will have these.

An enlarged thyroid gland that is not cancer is called a goitre. This swelling appears as a lump at the front of the neck which goes up and down when swallowing.

Cancerous thyroid lumps aren’t usually painful. But you should get a lump (whether it is painful or not) checked out by your doctor.

Also, see your doctor if:

  • a lump that has been previously checked suddenly gets bigger
  • you find a lump elsewhere in your neck

Hoarse voice

See your doctor if you have any of these symptoms for more than 3 weeks. A hoarse voice is more likely to be caused by a bacterial or viral infection. But let you doctor check you out.

Sore throat or difficulty swallowing

Sore throats are very common and could be due to infection. But check with your doctor if you: 

  • have had a sore throat for more than 3 weeks
  • you have difficulty swallowing and this is not getting better

Unusual symptoms

Medullary thyroid cancer can cause unusual symptoms. You might have frequent loose bowel movements or go red in the face (flushing). These are caused by too much of the hormone calcitonin, made by the medullary thyroid cancer cells. 

When to see your doctor

The earlier a cancer is picked up, the easier it is to treat, and the more likely the treatment is to be successful. So it’s important that you go to your GP as soon as possible if you notice worrying symptoms. These include:

  • a lump at the base of your neck
  • a hoarse voice that lasts for more than 3 weeks
  • a sore throat or difficulty swallowing that does not get better
  • a lump elsewhere in your neck

Information and help

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About Cancer generously supported by Dangoor Education since 2010.