Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU Massey Cancer Center

What are thyroid tumors?

The thyroid gland is located in the front of the neck at the base of the throat. Thyroid tumors are either benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous) growths. Examples of benign tumors are adenomas, which secrete thyroid hormone. Malignant tumors are more rare and are more common in women than in men.

What are thyroid adenomas?

Thyroid adenomas grow from the cell layer that lines the inner surface of the thyroid gland. The adenoma itself secretes thyroid hormone. If the adenoma secretes enough thyroid hormone, it may cause hyperthyroidism. Thyroid adenomas may be treated if they cause hyperthyroidism. Treatment may include surgery to remove part of the thyroid (the overactive nodule).
What are cancerous thyroid tumors?

Cancer of the thyroid occurs more often in people who have undergone radiation to the head, neck or chest; however, most thyroid cancer can be cured with appropriate treatment. Thyroid cancer usually appears as small growths (nodules) within the thyroid gland. Some signs that a nodule may be cancerous include:

  • Presence of a single nodule rather than multiple nodules. 
  • Thyroid scan reveals the nodule is not functioning. 
  • Nodule is solid instead of filled with fluid (cyst). 
  • Nodule is hard. 
  • Nodule grows fast.