Thyroid cancer

Thyroid cancer

What is thyroid cancer?

Thyroid cancer develops when the cells of the thyroid gland grow and divide in a disorderly way.

The four main types of thyroid cancer are: papillary, follicular, medullary, and anaplastic. 

Read more about thyroid cancer.

Thyroid cancer symptoms

Thyroid cancer usually develops slowly, without many obvious symptoms.

  • The most common symptom is a painless lump in the neck or throat which may gradually get bigger.
  • You may also experience hoarseness and difficulty swallowing or breathing.

Some people are diagnosed with thyroid cancer when they visit their doctor for another reason.

 Thyroid cancer statistics

  • about 2400 people are diagnosed with thyroid cancer each year in Australia
  • it is much more common in females – it is the seventh most common cancer affecting Australian women
  • the average age of a woman diagnosed with thyroid cancer is 49; the average age of a man diagnosed with thyroid cancer is 54
  • cases have increased over the years. Between 1991 and 2009, cases of thyroid cancer increased by 250%†

Research is being done to determine the cause of this increase. The number may have increased because there are better ways to earlier detect small cancers that previously went undiagnosed.

† Australian Institute of Health and Welfare & Australasian Association of Cancer Registries 2012. Cancer in Australia: an overview, 2012. Cancer series no. 74. Cat. no. CAN 70. Canberra: AIHW.

The aim of this information is to help you understand about thyroid cancer. We cannot advise you about the best treatment for you. You need to discuss this with your doctors. However, we hope this information will answer some of your questions and help you think about the questions you would like to ask your doctors or other health carers.