Signs and symptoms of thyroid cancer

In most people, thyroid cancer develops very slowly. The most common symptom of thyroid cancer is a painless lump in the neck that gradually gets bigger. Most thyroid lumps are benign (non-cancerous).

Other symptoms include:

  • a hoarse voice, for no obvious reason, that doesn’t go away after a few weeks
  • difficulty swallowing – a thyroid tumour pressing on the gullet (oesophagus) can cause this
  • difficulty breathing – a thyroid tumour pressing on the windpipe (trachea) can cause this
  • pain in the front of the neck.

You should see your doctor as soon as possible if:

  • you notice a lump in your neck, whether it is painful or not
  • you notice any of the other symptoms above.

These symptoms can be caused by conditions other than cancer.

Back to Understanding thyroid cancer

What is cancer?

Cancer is a disease of our cells. Sometimes cells go wrong and become abnormal. They keep dividing to make more abnormal cells which form a lump or tumour.

Cancer and cell types

Cancers are grouped into types. Types of cancer often behave and respond to treatments in different ways.

The thyroid gland

The thyroid gland releases important hormones that keep your body functioning at the correct speed.

Why do cancers come back?

Sometimes, tiny cancer cells are left behind after cancer treatment. These can divide to form a new tumour.