Thyroid Cancer Diagnosis

Thyroid cancer is diagnosed using a number of tests, including:

  • physical examination to feel the thyroid for lumps (nodules)
  • blood tests that measure levels of thyroid hormones
  • ultrasound imaging
  • nuclear medicine scans

The diagnosis is ultimately confirmed through a biopsy of thyroid tissue. At NYU, doctors perform ultrasound-guided needle biopsy at the time of the initial consultation, sparing patients from having to make a return visit. Tissue samples from this procedure are analyzed by experts in the Department of Cytopathology. Thyroid tumors removed in the operating room are analyzed by a dedicated thyroid pathologist, enhancing the accuracy of the diagnosis.

Fewer than one percent of thyroid cancers are associated with a very rare genetic mutation as part of a syndrome called MEN2. People who carry this mutation have an increased risk for thyroid cancer, and may have the thyroid surgically removed before cancer has a chance to develop. Patients who may possibly have a genetic predisposition to thyroid cancer because of this mutation may wish to seek genetic counseling and testing through NYU Medical Center’s Genetics Program; call 212-263-6603 for an appointment. However, the vast majority of patients with thyroid cancer do not need to undergo genetic testing.