Can a Cough Indicate Thyroid Cancer?

May 7th 2016

The best method of diagnosing thyroid cancer revolves around paying close attention to potential symptoms and understanding how the disease develops. Thyroid cancer occurs when abnormal cells begin developing and multiplying in the thyroid gland. The abnormal cells accumulate and begin forming a tumor. The abnormal cells start invading nearby tissue and spreading throughout the body. This is an unusual type of cancer that has several common symptoms. Symptoms include a lump or swelling in the neck, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness, trouble breathing and persistent cough unrelated to a cold. Different types of thyroid cancer include papillary, follicular, medullary and anaplastic thyroid cancer.

Persistent Cough

Symptoms are not always present with thyroid cancer, which makes diagnosis and detection difficult. In most cases, a persistent cough is not enough to diagnose thyroid cancer. There is generally a combination of common symptoms that leads to a diagnosis. Additionally, knowing how long the symptoms were present and how often the patient experienced the symptoms helps accurately diagnose the cancer. Persistent cough, like other symptoms, is more frequently caused by a thyroid nodule, and thyroid nodules are usually benign.

Lump in Throat

The most common symptom of thyroid cancer is a lump or swelling in the neck. Most patients diagnosed with thyroid cancer typically find out there is a thyroid nodule present. Many thyroid nodules are too small to cause a noticeable lump. However, some patients notice feeling a lump when swallowing. The easiest way to detect a thyroid lump is to have a doctor perform an exam and feel the thyroid.

Difficulty Swallowing or Breathing

The thyroid is located at the top of the windpipe. When thyroid cancer develops, pressure begins building on the windpipe, which makes breathing more difficult. The esophagus is located under the windpipe, and pressure can cause difficulty swallowing. While experiencing difficulty breathing or swallowing is an uncommon method of detecting thyroid cancer, multiple symptoms can lead to a diagnosis.

Swollen Lymph Nodes

Swollen lymph nodes are a common symptom of thyroid cancer. Thyroid cancer has the ability to spread throughout the body to the lymph nodes. The lymph nodes help the body fight off infections, and when the lymph nodes in the neck become swollen, a patient is generally sick or has a sore throat. If the lymph nodes in the neck stay swollen for extended periods of time when the patient is not sick, then thyroid cancer is a possibility.


This symptom is caused when a thyroid nodule presses against the voice box. The thyroid gland rests under the larynx, or voice box, and when the nodule presses against the larynx, it causes changes in the voice.

In some cases, symptoms are not present with thyroid cancer, which often makes the disease difficult to detect and diagnose. If you're are experiencing a combination of these signs or suspect potential thyroid problems, please consult a qualified medical professional for proper examination.

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