Thyroid cancer is a type of cancer arising in the thyroid gland at the base of the neck. Thyroid cancer symptoms in females may include swelling, painless lumps, and difficulty swallowing. However, thyroid cancer is often asymptomatic.

Many people develop benign (noncancerous) growths of thyroid cells that cause a painless lump. However, in rare cases, these cells can grow and divide uncontrollably, leading to thyroid cancer.

Thyroid cancer is more common in females than males. Often it causes no symptoms, but a tell-tale sign is a painless lump or swelling at the front of the neck. A person can also experience swollen lymph nodes in the neck, among other symptoms.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates around 43,720 people will receive a diagnosis of thyroid cancer in 2023. Doctors do not know the exact cause of thyroid cancer but think it is due to genetic changes inside the thyroid cells.

This article explains what thyroid cancer symptoms look like, particularly in females. It also details when to contact a doctor and the outlook.

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There are four types of thyroid cancer. Of these four types, papillary thyroid carcinoma and follicular thyroid carcinoma are most common in females.

However, medullary thyroid carcinoma usually runs in families, and anaplastic thyroid carcinoma is more common in people over 60.

During the early stages of the disease, thyroid cancer may cause minimal or no symptoms.

However, it commonly causes a painless lump or swelling at the lower front of the neck, below the Adam’s apple.

Once the disease has reached a more advanced stage, a person may experience the following:

In rare cases, thyroid cancer can affect thyroid hormone production, which can cause symptoms such as diarrhea and flushing.

In particular, experimental studies report a relationship between female sex hormones and the development of thyroid cancer because females are three times more likely to develop thyroid cancer than males.

Thyroid cancer symptoms tend to be the same for both sexes.

A study from 2021 found that females were over four times as likely as males to receive a diagnosis of small papillary thyroid cancer during their lifetime, but this type of cancer is rarely fatal.

Conversely, the researchers found that the occurrence of aggressive and often fatal types of thyroid cancer was almost equal in males and females.

Additionally, they found no significant difference between the sexes in relation to small papillary thyroid cancers discovered during autopsies, which doctors had not detected during the person’s life.

The researchers noted that females are more likely to seek medical care than males and more likely to undergo testing for undefined health issues causing symptoms like fatigue and menstrual disturbance.

Learn more about the symptoms of thyroid cancer here.

People commonly develop abnormal growths of thyroid cells, but they rarely turn out to be thyroid cancer. Generally, these benign growths do not cause symptoms or require treatment. However, in rare cases, these collections of cells grow and divide uncontrollably, resulting in thyroid cancer.

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the lower part of the throat, near the trachea or windpipe. A healthy thyroid is slightly bigger than a quarter, and a person cannot usually feel it through their skin.

The thyroid is part of the endocrine system. It uses iodine to make several different hormones that control body processes, such as:

Learn more about thyroid cancer here.

If a person experiences any potential symptoms of thyroid cancer, it is important to speak with a doctor.

A painless lump in the front of the neck rarely means a person has thyroid cancer. However, getting an accurate diagnosis as soon as possible can help ensure the best outcome.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2019, for every 100,000 females, 19 received a diagnosis of thyroid cancer, and one female died. In contrast, 7 males received a thyroid cancer diagnosis, and 1 male died for every 100,000 males in the same year.

According to the National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom, approximately 9 in 10 people live for at least 5 years following a thyroid cancer diagnosis. Doctors refer to this as the 5-year survival rate.

Thyroid cancer has one of the highest 5-year relative survival rates. With treatment, many people with thyroid cancer will live as long as someone without thyroid cancer.

However, the 5-year survival rates vary by type and time of diagnosis of thyroid cancer.

For instance:

  • around 9 in 10 people with papillary carcinoma and follicular carcinoma live at least 5 years after diagnosis
  • about 9 in 10 females and 7 in 10 males with medullary thyroid carcinoma live at least 5 years after diagnosis
  • approximately 1 in 10 people with anaplastic thyroid carcinoma live at least 5 years after diagnosis

Learn more about cancers with the highest 5-year relative survival rate.

Females and males with thyroid cancer experience the same symptoms. In the early stages of the disease, they include a painless lump or swelling below the Adam’s apple and swollen lymph nodes. People may experience other symptoms as the disease develops, including hoarseness and pain.

Females are two to three times more likely to get thyroid cancer than males. Overall, 9 in 10 people live at least 5 years after a diagnosis of thyroid cancer.

Learn more about all types of cancer in our dedicated hub.