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NCCN Guidelines for Patients



Thyroid Cancer, Version 1.2017


Thyroid cancer

Thyroid cancer

Thyroid nodules

Once you know about thyroid cancer, it is helpful

to know about thyroid nodules. Nodules are small,

often round areas of abnormal tissue. Most nodules

are not cancer (benign) but some may be cancer

(malignant). People can have one thyroid nodule or

more than one at a time. The nodules can vary in

size. If the nodules are small, they usually can’t be

felt or seen on exam.

Most thyroid nodules do not cause any symptoms. If

the nodules are large, they may be found by a doctor

or you while examining your neck. Many nodules

are found while getting an examination for another

reason such as a CT (




omography) scan

or carotid ultrasound (heart ultrasound). Sometimes

an abnormal value is found while doing a routine

blood test. If any thyroid-related hormones or other

values are out of range, your doctor will order

more blood tests or imaging tests (for example, an

ultrasound) to further check your health.

Risk factors

Anything that increases your chances of having

cancer is called a risk factor. Certain risk factors can

be seen with this cancer type. Risk factors can be

activities that people do, things in the environment, or

traits passed from parents to children through genes.

Genes are coded instructions for your cells.

A process called mutation is when something

goes wrong in the genetic code. Mutations can be

passed on from a parent and present before you are

born (inherited), or they can be caused by genetic

damage (acquired) that occurs later in life. People

with inherited genetic mutations have a higher risk

for certain cancers, but that doesn’t mean they will

definitely develop cancer. Only a small number of

cancers are a result of inherited mutations.

About 1 in 100 people have a lifetime risk for

developing thyroid cancer in the United States.

Doctors are not completely sure what causes thyroid

cancer, but are aware of certain risk factors. Ask your

doctor or nurse to explain the possible risk factors for

thyroid cancer.

See Guide 1.

Guide 1. Risk Factors

Risk Factors

• History of contact with radiation in the head and

neck area

• History of elevated TSH

• Obesity

• Family history of thyroid cancer

• Personal or family history of a syndrome related to

developing thyroid cancer

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