Thyroid cancer is one of many cancers often found through routine checkups.  For people at elevated risk, thyroid ultrasounds are helpful in detecting thyroid cancer at an early stage.


Risk Factors for Thyroid Cancer
A risk factor is anything that affects your chance of developing a disease such as cancer. However, having one or more risk factor does not mean you will definitely develop thyroid cancer, and having no risk factors does not mean you will never have thyroid cancer.


Although the exact cause of thyroid cancer is unknown, researchers have linked it to several risk factors:


  • Radiation exposure, particularly radiation therapy to the neck
  • Personal or family history of thyroid cancer
  • Family history of goiter (swollen thyroid gland)
  • Family history of colon growths
  • Women are up to three times more likely than men to develop thyroid cancer.
  • Age 40 years or older
  • Diet low in iodine


Screening Tests for Thyroid Cancer
The best screening test for thyroid cancer is an annual physical examination. Most early thyroid cancers are found at these appointments, when your doctor notices lumps or nodules in the neck. Some doctors recommend twice-yearly self-examinations, in which you examine your own neck to look and feel for any growths or lumps.


Early thyroid cancers are also sometimes found when people have ultrasound tests for other health problems.


Blood tests and thyroid ultrasounds are also highly effective at finding changes in the thyroid, but these tests are not recommended as part of the screening process unless you are at increased risk because of a family history of thyroid cancer or other risk factors.