Having tests for thyroid cancer
If you think you might have some of the symptoms of thyroid cancer cancer you should go to your family doctor (GP). They'll be able to talk to you about your symptoms, and if they think they could be because of cancer they can do tests to find out more.
Visiting your GP
When you go to your GP they might examine you and usually arrange some tests, such as blood tests and an ultrasound scan of your neck. There may be a number of reasons why you have these symptoms, so it can be difficult to diagnose the problem right away. Once the GP has the results of your tests, they might make an appointment for you with a specialist at the hospital.
At the hospital
You’ll probably be seen by lots of doctors at the hospital. There will usually be a team of specialists who’ll be involved in your care. They all play an important part in your care, even though you may only meet some of them. In this team there may be a doctor who specialises in thyroid problems (endocrinologist), a cancer specialist (oncologist), a surgeon who specialises in thyroid surgery and a pathologist who looks at blood and tissue samples to diagnose diseases.
Your specialist will also examine you and arrange for more detailed tests, which may include a biopsy. This involves removing a small piece of the tumour to be analysed. You might have a general anaesthetic and so will be asleep when it is done, or you may only need a local anaesthetic, which numbs the area. There is more information about having an anaesthetic in the surgery section.
Other tests may be done to check the size of the tumour and whether it has spread, such as:
- a chest x-ray to check your lungs
- a CT, MRI or PET scan
- a radioisotope scan to look closer at the thyroid.
You won’t necessarily need all of these tests. It’ll depend on the results of the first ones. Waiting for tests and results can be a scary time. But finding out more about them can help you cope.
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If you're looking for information about thyroid cancer in people of all ages please see our general thyroid cancer information.