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Symptoms of thyroid cancer

The symptoms of thyroid cancer include:

  • a lump in your neck
  • a hoarse voice that lasts for more than 3 weeks
  • a sore throat or difficulty swallowing that does not get better
These symptoms could be caused by other medical conditions. But it is important you get any symptoms checked out by your GP.

A lump in your neck

The thyroid gland is at the base of your neck. Thyroid lumps are very common. But only about 5 out of 100 thyroid lumps (5%) are cancer. Older people in particular can have small lumps in their thyroid gland called nodules. Nodules are more common in women than men.

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 sometimes goes up and down when swallowing.

Cancerous thyroid lumps aren’t usually painful. But you should get any 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

A hoarse voice is more likely to be caused by a bacterial or viral infection. See your doctor if you have a hoarse voice for more than 3 weeks.

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

A rare type of thyroid cancer called 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. 

Seeing your doctor

Your symptoms may not be due to thyroid cancer. But it is important that any symptoms you have are checked by a doctor, even if you are feeling well.

The earlier a cancer is picked up, the easier it is to treat it and the more likely the treatment is to be successful.