Thyroid Cancer Overview

Early Diagnosis Is Key to Positive Outcomes

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland at the base of the throat, under your voice box. At normal size, each half is about one inch in diameter. The thyroid gland makes hormones that affect metabolism. Metabolism influences:

  • Body temperature
  • Weight gain and loss 
  • Blood pressure
  • Heart rhythm
  • Energy level

Thyroid tumors happen when cells build up in the thyroid gland, forming a nodule. More than 90 percent of thyroid nodules are benign or not cancerous. Most of them are not life threatening and don’t need to be removed.

Malignant thyroid tumors can be life threatening. They also may invade surrounding tissue, and they can spread to other parts of the body through the blood vessels and the lymph system.

The four main kinds of thyroid cancer are:

  • Papillary – about 80 percent of thyroid cancers. Grows slowly and is most curable.
  • Follicular – about 15 percent of thyroid cancers. Grows slowly and is very treatable.
  • Medullary – about 3 percent of thyroid cancers. Can be controlled when found and treated early, before spreading widely.
  • Anaplastic – about 2 percent of thyroid cancers. Grows quickly and spreads rapidly. Difficult to control. Very rarely treatable.

According to the National Institutes of Health, the United States saw more than 56,000 new cases of thyroid cancer in 2012, and nearly 1,800 people died from the disease.

Thyroid cancer specialists at The University of Kansas Cancer Center are leaders in the field. Working as a team, they will provide you with the latest advances in prevention, diagnosis, treatment and resources.

Why you should choose The University of Kansas Cancer Center

If you have thyroid cancer, you will find the leading specialists you need at The University of Kansas Cancer Center. Our team of board-certified doctors has years of experience treating hundreds of patients with thyroid cancer. The team includes doctors who specialize in:

  • Thyroid disease
  • Thyroid surgery
  • Cancer (medical oncologists)
  • Nuclear medicine doctors
  • Radiation therapy (radiation oncologists)
  • Using imaging to deliver treatment (interventional radiologists)

These doctors and other staff form a multidisciplinary thyroid tumor board. It meets weekly to discuss and coordinate the best treatment for every thyroid cancer patient at the hospital and clinics.

Academic Approach
Because we are an academic medical center, we offer some of the region's most advanced cancer treatments. We are constantly finding new treatments to improve lives. We use state-of-the-art techniques and technologies to improve patient outcomes and reduce side effects. We also use the latest findings in cancer research.

  • We offer minimally invasive surgery options. They require smaller incisions, provide faster recovery and less scarring than traditional surgery. 
  • We can biopsy hard-to-reach nodules with special imaging to guide the surgeon.
  • Our surgical complication rates are well below the national averages.

Our staff is also accustomed to working with community healthcare providers. In many cases, you can receive some of your treatment near your own home in coordination with staff at The University of Kansas Cancer Center.

Care Coordination
Each person is unique, so we tailor your care to your personal needs. This means doctors, nurses and other staff work closely together to develop the treatment plan that best fits your needs. They discuss every patient’s treatment as a team to stay up to date on your care and progress.

Thyroid Cancer Clinical Trials
We are part of many national clinical trials on cancer treatment. This means you benefit from our staff’s exposure to the latest options. You also may be able to take part in a clinical trial for thyroid cancer during your treatment.

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