QUESTION: Does smoking or drinking cause thyroid cancer?

Smoking and drinking are not related to thyroid cancer. Such habits of course are better avoided for overall good health but they neither cause nor aggravate the course of thyroid gland malignancy.

QUESTION: Does thyroid cancer spread throughout the body and how can you tell if this is so?


Thyroid cancer rarely spreads throughout the body. Most thyroid cancers are cured by the initial operation. Although thyroid cancer may extend to lymph glands in the neck, the removal of these lymph glands is usually quite feasible and curative. Infrequently cancers do spread to lung and bone and can be detected by x-ray and scanning imaging procedures. Such a situation requires treatment by radioactive iodine or other x-ray therapy procedures and occasionally surgical removal. For the rare but more aggressive types of cancer, treatment with chemotherapy and x-ray therapy may be recommended.

QUESTION: How likely are my chances of dying of thyroid cancer even with all this treatment?

The most common types of thyroid cancer have the best long-term outcome when promptly treated compared to all other types of cancer. Almost all patients are totally cured by treatment.

QUESTION: How is thyroid cancer detected?

Thyroid cancer is frequently detected by the patient becoming aware of a lump in the neck. Half such cases are detected by a physician during a routine physical examination for an unrelated problem. Thyroid cancer does not cause pain and rarely produces symptoms. Most patients with thyroid cancer have normal metabolism and thyroid tests.

QUESTION: What are the side effects of treatment? Will I lose my voice or have a large scar?

The usual treatment of thyroid cancer involves the removal of at least a portion or all of the thyroid gland through a small neck incision. It is infrequent for patients to have any problem with a voice disorder or calcium imbalance as a consequence of the surgery. The removal of lymph glands may require a larger incision, but this is usually low in the neck and is still compatible with a good cosmetic result.

QUESTION: What can I do to ensure that I have the very best result of treatment for my thyroid cancer?


It is important that nodules in the thyroid gland or in the neck area be appropriately diagnosed at an early stage. You should see an endocrinologist who will assess the nodule and confirm the diagnosis and guide you through treatment. However, in contrast to many other cancers, early detection and treatment almost always results in a complete eradication and cure!

What causes thyroid cancer?

Thyroid cancer is more common in people who have a history of exposure of the thyroid gland to radiation, have a family history of thyroid cancer, and are older than 40 years of age. However, for most patients, we do not know the specific reason why they develop thyroid cancer.

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