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The thyroid is a gland in the neck that helps control heart rate, blood pressure and metabolism. Thyroid cancer occurs when cells within the thyroid begin to multiply at a rapid rate, resulting in a mass or tumor. If left untreated, thyroid cancer may advance and eventually spread to distant areas of the body. This is known as stage 4 or metastatic thyroid cancer.

How do I know if I have metastatic thyroid cancer?

In many cases, thyroid cancer is detected in its early stages before it has had a chance to metastasize to other areas of the body. The most telltale symptom is a lump in the throat area, which you may detect yourself or your physician may detect during a routine checkup. There are a number of other conditions that can also cause lumps or swelling in the neck area; therefore, it is important to consult your physician as soon as possible for an accurate diagnosis.

In addition to a lump in the neck, other symptoms of thyroid cancer may include:

  • Pain in the throat area
  • Hoarseness or a persistent cough
  • Voice changes
  • Trouble swallowing or breathing

Metastatic thyroid cancer that has spread to other areas, such as the lymph nodes, lungs, bones or brain, may cause additional symptoms, depending on where it has spread. For example, if cancer cells appear in the lungs, symptoms may include shortness of breath or trouble breathing.

How is metastatic thyroid cancer treated?

As with other types of cancer, early detection and treatment of thyroid cancer leads to the best chances of a successful outcome. At advanced stages, treatment typically consists of surgery to remove the tumor along with another form of treatment, such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy.

At Moffitt Cancer Center, our thyroid clinic is made up of a multispecialty team dedicated to diagnosing and treating thyroid cancer regardless of the stage. Patients at Moffitt benefit from individualized treatment plans that have been tailored to meet their unique needs and provide them with the best chance of a successful outcome and improved quality of life.

If you have been diagnosed with metastatic thyroid cancer, you can consult with a cancer expert at Moffitt by filling out a new patient registration form online or calling 1-888-663-3488. We welcome patients with or without a referral.