You may have a lump or nodule in your neck that is visible. Typically, the lump will be located on the side of your neck. (Don’t mistake your Adam’s apple, located in the front of your neck, for a thyroid lump.) You may also be able to feel the lump, or it may be detected by a physician, your partner, a hairdresser, or a massage therapist. The most common way that thyroid lumps are detected is incidentally through imaging, such as dental X-rays, or ultrasounds of the neck.
Sometimes, due to the position of a thyroid nodule, you may experience some neck pain. In some cases, cancerous nodules can cause pain that radiates up from your neck towards your ears.
Enlarged lymph nodes
Thyroid cancer can in some cases cause enlarged lymph nodes, also known as lymph glands. Your lymph nodes are small, soft, and bean-shaped, and when they enlarge, you may be able to feel them in the front, side or back of your neck (under your ears), under your chin, and in your armpits.
Swelling in your face
Thyroid cancer may cause swelling in your face, especially in the jaw, cheeks, and area around your ears.
Swelling in your neck
Swelling in your neck, especially when it is bilateral — or one-sided — may be a symptom of thyroid cancer. The swelling may be visible. This swelling may also make your neck feel more sensitive to ties, scarves, turtlenecks, and neckties.
A hoarse, scratchy voice can be a symptom of thyroid cancer in some people.
Difficulty swallowing, or feeling like you have a lump in your throat, can be signs of thyroid cancer.
Rapidly growing lump
A rapidly growing lump or nodule can be a sign that a nodule is cancerous, especially the rare but life-threatening anaplastic form of thyroid cancer.
Your next steps
If you have any of the symptoms of thyroid cancer, you should consult your health care provider right away, for a complete evaluation and testing. The vast majority of thyroid cancers are highly treatable and survivable when detected early in the course of the disease.