Signs and Symptoms of Thyroid Cancer

by Mary Shomon Patient Advocate

Thyroid cancer — also known as thyroid carcinoma — may not have any symptoms. Let’s take a look at the symptoms that can point to a developing case of thyroid cancer.

Woman with throat pain touching her neck.

A lump

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.

Patient with neck pain talking to a doctor.

Neck pain

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.

Woman touching her armpit.

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.

Woman touching her cheek.

Swelling in your face

Thyroid cancer may cause swelling in your face, especially in the jaw, cheeks, and area around your ears.

Woman outside with neck pain.

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.

Woman whispering to her friend.


A hoarse, scratchy voice can be a symptom of thyroid cancer in some people.

Woman with trouble swallowing.

Difficulty swallowing

Difficulty swallowing, or feeling like you have a lump in your throat, can be signs of thyroid cancer.

Woman with stomach cramps on a couch.

Chronic diarrhea

Chronic diarrhea can be a symptom of a particular type of less common thyroid cancer known as medullary thyroid cancer.

Physiotherapist stretching neck of a female patient.

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.

Senior man sitting on sofa and coughing.

Chronic coughing

Chronic coughing can be a sign of thyroid cancer, specifically the rare and very serious anaplastic thyroid cancer.

Man coughing up blood onto a tissue.

Coughing up blood

Coughing up blood can occasionally be a sign of anaplastic thyroid cancer, an uncommon but most invasive form of thyroid cancer.

Doctor with a senior female patient.

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.

Mary Shomon
Meet Our Writer
Mary Shomon

Mary Shomon is a patient advocate and New York Times bestselling author who empowers readers with information on thyroid and autoimmune disease, diabetes, weight loss and hormonal health from an integrative perspective. Mary has been a leading force advocating for more effective, patient-centered hormonal healthcare. Mary also co-stars in PBS’ Healthy Hormones TV series. Mary also serves on HealthCentral’s Health Advocates Advisory Board.