Thyroid Cancer

Expert Care and Treatment for Thyroid Cancers

The Thyroid Cancer Center includes medical oncologists, surgical oncologists, endocrinologists, endocrine surgeons, cytopathologists, and radiologists who treat thyroid cancer and nodular disease.

Your care team will collaborate to develop a comprehensive, personalized treatment plan that offers the most advanced therapies and an array of supportive resources.

Thyroid Cancer Center

What Is Thyroid Cancer?

Located in the front of the neck below the voice box (larynx) and above the collarbone, the thyroid gland plays a very important role in regulating the body's metabolism and function. Hormones released by the thyroid gland help to control heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and weight. Thyroid cancer occurs when cancer cells form in the tissues of the thyroid gland. 


  • Thyroid cancer is the eighth most common cancer in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute. 
  • According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 64,300 new cases of thyroid cancer are expected to be diagnosed in 2016 in the United States, with 3 out of 4 cases occurring in women. 

Risk Factors 

Anything that increases your risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors does not mean that you will not get cancer. Speak with your doctor if you think you may be at risk for thyroid cancer. 

Risk factors for thyroid cancer include: 

  • Female gender 
  • Radiation exposure, including prior radiation treatment to the head, neck, or chest 
  • History of goiter (enlarged thyroid) 
  • Family history of thyroid disease or thyroid cancer, including familial medullary thyroid cancer 
  • Certain genetic conditions, such as multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome (type 2A and type 2B) 

Signs and Symptoms 

Thyroid cancer may or may not cause symptoms, or symptoms may only appear when the disease is more advanced. Signs and symptoms of thyroid cancer may include: 

  • Swelling or lump in the neck 
  • Trouble swallowing or breathing 
  • Hoarseness 

Types of Thyroid Cancer 

There are multiple types of thyroid cancer, including these: 

  • Papillary thyroid cancer, the most common thyroid cancer, grows slowly and forms into finger-like shapes. It is a differentiated thyroid cancer. 
  • Follicular thyroid cancer is the second most common type of thyroid cancer. It is slow growing and forms in the follicular cells of the thyroid, which uses iodine from the blood to produce thyroid hormones. Like papillary thyroid cancer, follicular thyroid cancer is also a differentiated thyroid cancer. 
  • Medullary thyroid cancer develops in the thyroid's c-cells, which make a hormone (calcitonin) that helps control the calcium level in the blood. It is a less differentiated form of thyroid cancer. Familial medullary thyroid cancer is caused by inherited conditions. 
  • Anaplastic thyroid cancer, a rare and very aggressive form of thyroid cancer, is an undifferentiated thyroid cancer. The malignant cells in this type of cancer look very different from normal thyroid cells. 
  • Parathyroid tumors form on the parathyroid glands, which are four pea-shaped organs located near the thyroid. Most parathyroid tumors are benign. There are fewer than 100 reported cases of parathyroid cancer in the United States each year, according to the National Cancer Institute. 

Signs and Symptoms of a Thyroid Tumor

What are the typical signs and symptoms of a thyroid tumor? In this video, Eleni M. Rettig, MD, a head and neck surgical oncologist at Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center, gives a brief overview of thyroid cancer, common symptoms to look out for, how to do a self-exam, and when to see your physician regarding changes to your health.

Why Choose Us

The Thyroid Cancer Center at Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center is a nationally recognized clinical care center and research hub. Our multidisciplinary team of thyroid cancer experts collaborates to provide compassionate, comprehensive, and highly coordinated care for patients with thyroid cancer. Specialists and researchers in the Thyroid Cancer Center are dedicated to advancing the understanding of thyroid cancer and nodular disease and translating the latest research findings into new, effective treatment approaches. 

Starting with your initial consultation, your care team will work with you to create a personalized treatment plan tailored to your type of cancer and your personal needs. We offer an extensive array of advanced treatment options, including image-guided surgical techniques, highly targeted radiation therapies, innovative medical therapies, clinical trials, and the full range of support services. 

We provide comprehensive services to patients with these cancers, including:  

  • A treatment approach informed by the latest developments in clinical and basic research 
  • Care for papillary thyroid cancer, follicular thyroid cancer, medullary thyroid cancer, anaplastic thyroid cancer, parathyroid cancer 
  • The Thyroid Cancer 360 Program, which helps identify the most appropriate targeted therapies for patients as their cancer evolves, and to develop new therapeutic approaches 
  • Advanced imaging technologies for greater precision before, during, and after surgery at our state-of-the-art Advanced Multimodality Image-Guided Operating (AMIGO) Suite
  • Highly targeted radiation techniques designed to preserve normal surrounding tissue. 
  • Molecular and genetic analysis of tumors for precise diagnosis and optimal treatment planning 
  • Access to new therapies through clinical trials, some of which may not be available elsewhere 
  • Multidisciplinary care delivered by specialists from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital 

Thyroid Cancer 360 Program: New Hope for Advanced Thyroid Cancer Patients

Read how Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center is partnering with one thyroid cancer patient on a new initiative, which they hope will help other thyroid cancer patients achieve long-term survivorship.