No one knows the exact cause or causes of thyroid cancer, and doctors can seldom explain why one person will get the disease and another person will not. However, it is clear that this disease is not contagious -- no one can "catch" thyroid cancer from another person. Research has shown that people with certain risk factors are more likely than others to develop it. A risk factor is anything that increases a person's chances of developing a disease. However, risk factors do not cause thyroid cancer.
Risk Factors for the Disease
Thyroid cancer risk factors include:
- Exposure to high levels of radiation
- Having a family history of the disease (or certain other health conditions, such as goiters)
- Being female
- Being over the age of 40
- Being Caucasian
- Not getting enough iodine in one's diet.
(Click Cause of Thyroid Cancer for more information about these risk factors.)
There are usually no early signs or symptoms of thyroid cancer. However, as the cancer grows, symptoms may include:
- A lump or nodule in the front of the neck near the Adam's apple
- Hoarseness or difficulty speaking in a normal voice
- Swollen lymph nodes, especially in the neck
- Difficulty swallowing or breathing
- Pain in the throat or neck.
These symptoms are not sure signs of thyroid cancer. Other health problems can also cause these symptoms. People with possible symptoms of thyroid cancer should see a doctor as soon as possible -- only a doctor can diagnose and treat the problem.
(Click Thyroid Cancer Symptoms for more information.)