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What are the symptoms of medullary thyroid cancer?

Most medullary thyroid cancers do not cause symptoms (i.e. they are asymptomatic). In fact, many patients will not know that they are there. Patients with large nodules may notice a palpable mass (i.e. a mass they can feel) or a visible mass (i.e. a mass they can see). Very large nodules may cause compressive symptoms which include difficulty swallowing, food or pills getting “stuck” when they swallow, and pressure or shortness of breath when lying flat. In cases of advanced cancer that are growing (i.e. invading) into surrounding structures, patients may develop hoarseness or difficulty swallowing. Enlarged neck lymph nodes that are concerning for cancer include those that are non-tender, firm, growing, and/or do not shrink over time. Patients with compressive symptoms, enlarged lymph nodes, hoarseness, and/or a rapidly growing nodule should seek medical evaluation right away.

The symptoms of medullary thyroid include pain in the neck when swallowing and a visible or easily detectable lump on the thyroid gland. People with this type of thyroid cancer may also cough or cough up blood, have problems breathing because of airway obstruction, and have diarrhea. Another symptom is a change to the way your voice sounds. It may be gruff-sounding and hoarse and may get worse in time. If you have any combination of the above symptoms, it is important to make an appointment to see your doctor.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.