Having tests for thyroid cancer

You may have tests at your GP surgery or at the hospital. The tests will help your doctors see whether you have thyroid cancer.

Going to your GP

If you think you might have symptoms of thyroid cancer, you should go to your GP. They will be able to talk to you about your symptoms, and will usually examine you. There may be different reasons why you have these symptoms. To find the cause, your GP will arrange some blood tests and make an appointment for you with a specialist at the hospital. If there is a chance you could be pregnant, please tell your doctor.

At the hospital

If you need more tests, you will be referred to a hospital. This could be a general hospital or a specialist cancer hospital.

You will probably see lots of different healthcare professionals at the hospital. They will work together to find out the cause of your symptoms and to plan your care.

You might see:

  • a doctor who specialises in thyroid problems (endocrinologist)
  • a surgeon who specialises in thyroid surgery
  • a pathologist who studies cells and looks at biopsies
  • a doctor who is an expert in cancer (oncologist)
  • a doctor who is trained to look at x-rays and scans (radiologist)
  • a specialist nurse.

Your specialist doctor (endocrinologist) will examine you and arrange for more tests. These may include:

  • An ultrasound scan – this scan uses sound waves to build up a picture of the part of the body being scanned.
  • A fine needle aspiration (FNA) – this test involves having a very small needle placed into your thyroid gland to remove a few cells. The pathologist will look at these cells under the microscope. This test is not usually painful.
  • A biopsy – this is when your doctor takes a small piece of tissue from a part of your body to look at it closely.

Further tests

If the tests show that you have thyroid cancer, you may have more tests to check the size of the tumour and whether it has spread. Sometimes the tests may be done after surgery.

The tests include:

  • a chest x-ray to check your lungs
  • a CT, MRI or PET scan
  • a radioisotope scan.

You probably won’t need all of these tests. Having tests and waiting for the results can be an difficult time. Talking about how you feel and getting support from your family, friends, specialist nurse or doctor can help.

Back to Thyroid cancer

About thyroid cancer

Information about the different types of thyroid cancer, the symptoms and possible causes.

The thyroid

The thyroid is a small gland in the front of the neck, just below the voicebox (larynx).