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Basics of thyroid cancer.

Thyroid cancer is cancer in the thyroid gland, located in the neck. The American Cancer Society® (ACS) estimates that about 54,000 new cases will be diagnosed in 2018, with about 41,000 occurring in women. The number of cases has risen in recent years. According to ACS, this may be because more sensitive tests, like thyroid ultrasound, can now detect cancers before they can be seen or felt.1

The thyroid gland has two main types of cells:

  • Follicular cells that use iodine from the blood to manufacture hormones that control metabolism
  • C cells that make calcitonin, a hormone that helps control how the body uses calcium

Different cancers can develop in these cells. Cancers that start in different types of cells require different types of treatments. The three main types of thyroid cancer are:

  • Differentiated (about 90 percent of cases)
  • Medullary (about 4 percent of cases)
  • Anaplastic (about 2 percent of cases)

Other rare types of thyroid cancers account for the remaining 4 percent.

Many of the symptoms you may experience are because the growth of cancer cells causes a lump in the thyroid gland. It can cause hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, pain, trouble breathing or coughing.

Common treatments for thyroid cancer are:

  • Surgery to remove the thyroid
  • Radioactive iodine therapy, a specialized type of radiation therapy in which radioactive iodine is taken by mouth (liquid or capsule) and absorbed by the thyroid
  • Thyroid hormone therapy to help stop cancer cells from growing and to regulate the body’s metabolism
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted drugs, which focus on keeping specific types of cancer cells from growing

Exactly which treatment or treatments your doctor plans for you will depend on the type of cancer you have, your age at diagnosis, the extent or stage of your cancer, and your overall state of health.

Because most treatments for cancer have side effects, it’s important to take care of yourself both before and during treatment. Things you can do to make treatment easier include:

  • Getting enough rest
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Staying physically active
  • Staying connected with family and friends

If you have any questions about your treatment, or have concerns about side effects, talk to your doctor or call your CVS Specialty CareTeam.

This information is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Talk to your doctor or health care provider about your medical condition and prior to starting any new treatment. CVS Specialty assumes no liability whatsoever for the information provided or for any diagnosis or treatment made as a result, nor is it responsible for the reliability of the content.

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1American Cancer Society® Website. Accessed October 3, 2018.