If thyroid cancer spreads

Cancer cells can spread from the thyroid to other parts of the body. This spread is called metastasis.

Understanding how a type of cancer usually grows and spreads helps your healthcare team plan your treatment and future care. If thyroid cancer spreads, it can spread to the following.

Regional metastasis

Regional metastasis means that the cancer has spread to organs or tissues close to or around the thyroid, including:

  • muscles, blood vessels or nerves in the neck
  • the larynx (voice box)
  • the trachea (windpipe)
  • the esophagus
  • the hypopharynx (bottom part of the throat)
  • lymph nodes in the neck
  • lymph nodes between the lungs (called mediastinal lymph nodes)

Distant metastasis

Distant metastasis means that the cancer has spread to other parts of the body farther from the thyroid, including:

Expert review and references

  • American Cancer Society. Thyroid Cancer. 2014: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/thyroidcancer/detailedguide/index.
  • American Joint Committee on Cancer. AJCC Cancer Staging Handbook. 7th ed. Chicago: Springer; 2010.
  • Davidson BJ, Newkirk KA, Burman KD . Cancer of the thyroid and the parathyroid: general principles and management. Harrison LB, Sessions RB, Kies MS (eds.). Head and Neck Cancer: A Multidisciplinary Approach. 4th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2014: 28A:779-824.