The importance of thyroid symptoms you can see
Most thyroid cancer is found by accident—doctors usually find it when patients are getting ultrasounds, CT scans, or MRIs for an unrelated reason. The nodules themselves are rarely noticeable, says Michael Tuttle, MD, an endocrinologist with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. (Check out these other cancers that are hard to detect.) Patients can usually choose to keep an eye on the cancer and make sure it doesn’t get worse rather than getting treatment right away, he says. “I would ignore asymptomatic, millimeter-sized things that you’d only find if you’re looking for it,” he says. “But any signs or anything you can feel in the neck, that would cross over to something you should no longer ignore.” If you have any of these potential thyroid cancer symptoms, ask your doctor if you should get a fine needle aspiration to test for cancer. Learn more signs you could have thyroid disease (that isn’t cancer).
Lump in the neck
Men will often find a nodule while shaving, while women might notice one while putting on makeup, says Robert Smallridge, MD, professor of medicine at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida and deputy director of Mayo Clinic Cancer Center. (Don’t miss these other cancer symptoms women should never ignore and cancer signs men should never overlook.) About 90 percent of thyroid nodules are benign, but if you have a large lump in the front of your neck below the Adam’s apple, pay attention to how it acts. “The trick is it moves up and down when you swallow,” Dr. Tuttle says. “Most other lumps don’t move.”