Skip to content

Make Appointments & Get Care

What is Thyroid Cancer?

Thyroid cancer starts when cells in the thyroid mutate and grow out of control. The majority of thyroid cancers are slow growing, or “indolent," and have an excellent prognosis. Most thyroid cancers don't come back after treatment. The most common type of thyroid cancer is Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma. 

It’s normal to have few or no symptoms, in part because of how slow-growing thyroid cancer is usually. One of the most common symptoms is a lump (growth) in your neck, called a nodule. This might be found during a routine physical, caught on a scan of the neck or chest, or you might notice it yourself. Other symptoms may start as the nodule grows and include:

  • A visible lump in the middle of the throat above the collarbone
  • Sensation of pressure, fullness, or pain in the front of the neck
  • A cough that won’t go away, and you don’t have a cold
  • Hoarseness or other voice changes
  • Difficulty or pain with swallowing
  • Swollen glands (lymph nodes) in the neck
  • Shortness of breath, cough, or a high-pitched wheezing sound while breathing

Schedule an appointment with a UR Medicine provider.

Call (585) 275-2901

UR Medicine's Treatments for Thyroid Cancer

The Wilmot Cancer Institute is committed to providing the highest-quality treatment and care — through expert and innovative medicine, science, and education — for any patient burdened by any cancer within our region and beyond. 

There are many treatment choices for thyroid cancer. Our experts from both Wilmot Cancer Institute and our Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism will work with you to develop a treatment plan.

We also collaborate with endocrine surgeons, otolaryngologists (ENT surgeons), nuclear medicine specialists, radiation oncologists, and medical oncologists. We hold a monthly multidisciplinary thyroid "tumor board" to discuss and achieve expert agreement from multiple specialists on the best next steps in caring for individual patients. 

If your provider thinks you may have thyroid cancer, you will need certain exams and tests to be sure. After reviewing your symptoms, health history, risk factors, and performing a physical exam, they may order blood tests and/or an ultrasound of your thyroid.

A biopsy is the only way to know for sure if you have thyroid cancer. This is usually done through fine-needle aspiration, during which a small needle is inserted through the skin and into the thyroid to collect small pieces of tissue for testing.

Treatments include:

Surgery. This is the most common treatment for thyroid cancer, and the type of surgery depends on the size of the tumor and the type of thyroid cancer. Your surgeon may remove half the thyroid or the entire gland. 

Radioactive iodine (RAI). This treatment finds and destroys thyroid cells that were not taken out in surgery or that spread beyond the thyroid. It also provides whole body imaging to see if the thyroid cancer has spread. RAI is administered as a drink or capsules and requires following a low-iodine diet. It includes a multi-day protocol of treatment and scans, followed by radiation precautions and social distancing to reduce risk of radiation exposure to others. 

Thyroid hormone medicine (levothyroxine). This type of treatment is needed after your thyroid gland has been removed, or if it's no longer making enough thyroid hormones. Levothyroxine is an exact duplicate of natural "T4" thyroid hormone. When given at a higher-than-usual dose, levothyroxine can also slow the growth of any remaining cancer cells.

External radiation therapy. Strong X-rays or other beams of energy can be used to kill cancer cells. Radiation is often used for later stage cancers or those that have spread to other areas like the voice box or esophagus (swallowing tube).

Targeted therapy. These medicines target specific changes found on some thyroid cancer cells. They may be used if other treatments aren't working, or if cancer comes back or spreads to other parts of the body after other treatments.

What Sets Us Apart?

UR Medicine's Wilmot Cancer Institute provides world-class cancer treatment and care and conducts pivotal research. The goal is to prevent and conquer cancer through innovation in science, patient care, education, and community outreach. Our Thyroid Cancer Clinic is run in collaboration with experienced endocrine surgeons, head and neck surgeons, pathology, and nuclear medicine services.


Our care team is here for you. Find a UR Medicine expert and get care now.

View Providers


We serve you in the Rochester metropolitan area and surrounding region.

1 location

Endocrinology - Rochester

Ambulatory Care Center at Strong Memorial Hospital
601 Elmwood Avenue, 3rd Floor
Rochester, NY 14620

Additional Resources

Learn more about thyroid cancer

Related Services & Conditions