Thyroid Cancer

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Thyroid cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancerous) cells form in the tissues of the thyroid gland (the butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your neck).

Thyroid nodules (lumps) are common, but are usually not cancer. By age 60, about half of all people have a thyroid nodule. Luckily, over 90% of these nodules are benign.

What Are The Signs Of Thyroid Cancer?

Thyroid cancer does not always cause early symptoms. Symptoms are more noticeable as the tumor grows bigger.

Signs of thyroid cancer include:

  • Swelling or lump in the neck
  • Trouble breathing
  • Trouble or pain with swallowing
  • Hoarseness or voice changes (your voice may be raspy or strained)

If you have any of these signs or symptoms, make an appointment with your healthcare provider. Call 413-794-7031 to make an appointment with the Baystate Health Thyroid Clinic.

What Causes Thyroid Cancer?

It isn’t clear what causes thyroid cancer, but we do know that certain things can put you at higher risk.

Age, gender, and radiation exposure can put you at greater risk for thyroid cancer. A certain kind of thyroid cancer called Medullary thyroid cancer can also be caused by a gene that is passed from parent to child.

You are at higher risk for thyroid cancer if you:

  • Are between 25 and 65 years old
  • Are female
  • Are Asian
  • Were exposed to head and neck radiation as an infant or child
  • Have a history of goiter (enlarged thyroid)
  • Have a family history of thyroid disease or thyroid cancer
  • Have certain genetic conditions such as familial medullary thyroid cancer (FMTC), multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2A syndrome (MEN2A), or multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2B syndrome (MEN2B)

If you have a family history of thyroid cancer, talk with your doctor or a genetic counselor.


How is Thyroid Cancer Diagnosed?

To diagnose thyroid cancer, our team uses a variety of techniques:

Physical exam and health history: We’ll start by checking your body for general signs of health and looking for swelling in your neck, voice box, and lymph nodes (small bean-shaped glands found throughout the body that help fight infection and disease). We’ll also talk with you about your health habits and history.

Laryngoscopy: If you have hoarseness, your team may use a laryngoscopy to get a better look at your voice box (the air passage to the lungs), we’ll use a thin tube with a light and lens. This procedure will help your doctor see if your vocal cords are moving normally.

Blood tests: Your doctor may draw your blood in order to check the amounts of certain hormones or to measure the amounts of certain substances. A higher or lower level of certain hormones or substances may be a sign of disease.

Ultrasound: We may use an ultrasound to get a picture of your thyroid nodule so that we can understand more about it.

CT scan: A CT scan can help us take detailed pictures of your head and neck from different angles.

Fine-needle aspiration biopsy: During this procedure, your doctor will remove some of your thyroid tissue by inserting a thin needle through your skin into the thyroid. A pathologist will then look at the sample under a microscope to look for cancer cells. Our specialized team includes pathologists who are experienced with diagnosing thyroid cancer.

Surgical biopsy: A surgeon may also remove the thyroid nodule during surgery. After surgery, a pathologist looks at the sample under a microscope.

How is Thyroid Cancer Treated?

Most thyroid cancers are curable. Baystate Health endocrinologists are specially trained to treat thyroid conditions, including thyroid cancer.

When treatment is necessary, it includes:


Thyroid cancer should be removed surgically by an experienced thyroid surgeon.

If you have a nodule that is too small to remove, it should be examined by your doctor every 6 to 12 months.


After thyroid surgery, you may need to take thyroid hormone medication. Your doctor will work with you to recommend treatment based on your needs. 


Our endocrinologists and are licensed to treat patients with radioactive iodine (I-131) for hyperthyroidism and thyroid cancer.

Radioactive iodine treatment uses large doses of radioactive iodine to destroy remaining thyroid tissue and cancer after surgery. 

Your doctor will recommend other cancer treatment options including chemotherapy and radiation therapy based on your situation. 
Thyroid Clinic

Baystate Health Thyroid Clinic

Our multidisciplinary thyroid team is here to care for you at our one-stop thyroid clinic. No matter how complex the thyroid condition, we are prepared to care for you.

Baystate Health endocrinologists are specially trained to treat thyroid conditions, and are licensed to treat patients with radioactive iodine (I-131) for hyperthyroidism and thyroid cancer.

Our thyroid cancer program includes experts in adult and pediatric endocrinology, endocrine surgery, oncology, and molecular pathology.
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