Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer is malignant cell growth in the thyroid, the butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck that produces hormones that regulate the body's use of energy and control heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature and weight. Though fairly uncommon, the number of cases diagnosed annually in the United States is increasing, likely due to new technology that allows health care professionals to find even small tumors in the thyroid. There may be no symptoms when thyroid cancer first develops. As the disease progresses, patients may feel a lump or swelling in the neck and later experience trouble swallowing or breathing.

There are several types of thyroid cancer, differentiated by how the cancer cells appear under a microscope. The most common form of thyroid cancer is papillary carcinoma, which develops in one lobe of the thyroid gland, grows very slowly, and rarely is fatal. The next most common form is follicular carcinoma, which likely is caused by a lack of iodine in the diet. The outlook for follicular carcinoma also is very good in most cases. Hurthle cell carcinoma, another type of follicular carcinoma, is rare and harder to find and treat. It also is less likely to respond to radiated iodine therapy, the most common treatment for thyroid cancer. 



Outstanding patient care is the primary focus of the UAB Medicine Head and Neck Oncology program. As a national leader in head and neck cancer treatment, we offer a number of surgical and nonsurgical treatment options for both malignant (cancerous) and benign (non-cancerous) tumors. We use a team approach that combines the expertise of head and neck surgeons; ear, nose, and throat physicians (otolaryngologists); medical and radiation oncologists; speech and swallowing specialists; dentists and prosthetic dentists; nutritionists; speech and language pathologists; and supportive care professionals.

A group of specialists called a tumor board meets weekly to discuss treatment options for patients with new and recurring cases of oral cancer. The board considers the latest clinical trials, immunotherapy (treatments that focus on the body’s immune system), and the most advanced surgical techniques in designing a treatment plan for each individual patient. And for the convenience of our patients, especially those who live far away, our Virtual Multidisciplinary Clinic enables patients to have much of their initial assessment done in one day, often avoiding multiple visits to different doctors.








UAB is an active participant in research and clinical trials for thyroid cancer. We encourage you to speak to your physician about research and clinical trial options and browse the link below for more information.

View Clinical Trials