Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Thyroid cancer

2-minute read

What is thyroid cancer?

Thyroid cancer develops when abnormal cells in the thyroid gland grow and divide out of control, forming a tumour.

Doctors don’t yet know what causes thyroid cells to become cancerous, although exposure to radiation and certain genetic factors are known to increase the risk of thyroid cancer.

Thyroid cancer symptoms and signs

Thyroid cancer often develops slowly, and may have no obvious symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they may include:

These symptoms can be caused by other problems, so if you notice any of them see your doctor as soon as possible.

The diagnosis of thyroid cancer usually involves a physical examination, as well as tests such as blood tests, imaging such as an ultrasound or CT scan, biopsy and internal examination of the throat.

Thyroid cancer treatment

Most cases of thyroid cancer can be cured with treatment.

Usually, people with thyroid cancer need surgery, either to remove their entire thyroid gland (total thyroidectomy) or a part of it (partial or hemi-thyroidectomy). Sometimes it’s also necessary to remove nearby lymph nodes.

Other treatments include thyroid hormone replacement therapy (medicine to replace the hormones the thyroid can no longer produce), and radioactive iodine treatment (used to destroy any cancer remaining after surgery). Some people also need chemotherapy, targeted drug therapies or external radiotherapy.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: November 2018

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Thyroid cancer - Better Health Channel

Anyone can develop thyroid cancer, regardless of age or gender.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Thyroid cancer - Cancer Council Australia

What is thyroid cancer? Find out about the symptoms, causes, treatment options and more. Get the facts from Cancer Council here.

Read more on Cancer Council Australia website

Thyroid cancer: Overview | Cancer Council Victoria

Understand more about thyroid cancer such as the different types, signs and symptoms, risk factors and how common it is.

Read more on Cancer Council Victoria website

Rare Cancers Australia - Directory - Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the thyroid gland.

Read more on Rare Cancers Australia website

Thyroid Cancers - Information, Treatment & Support - CanTeen

Thyroid cancers affect the gland in the body that is responsible for the hormones that keep us active. Learn more about causes and treatments with CanTeen.

Read more on CanTeen website

Thyroid cancer fact sheet | Cancer Australia

An overview of thyroid cancer including types, symptoms, risk factors, diagnosis, treatment and finding support.

Read more on Cancer Australia website

Thyroglobulin - Lab Tests Online AU

Why get tested? To monitor treatment of some types of thyroid cancer and to detect recurrence.

Read more on Lab Tests Online website

Rare Cancers Australia - Directory - Childhood Thyroid Tumors

Rare Cancers Australia is a charity whose purpose is to improve the lives and health outcomes of Australians living with a rare or less common cancer.

Read more on Rare Cancers Australia website

Medullary thyroid carcinoma - Lab Tests Online AU

Site map of article content

Read more on Lab Tests Online website

Endocrine Cancer | Cancer Council Victoria

The endocrine system is a network of hormone-producing glands such as the pituitary gland, the thyroid gland, the pancreas, the parathyroid glands and the adrenal glands.

Read more on Cancer Council Victoria website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo