Thyroid cancer

Having tests

Thyroid cancer

Having tests star_border Save this page

Not all symptoms are caused by cancer. Your GP or specialist will send you for tests to check what is causing your symptoms.

Your doctors should explain why you are having the tests and what they involve.

What you need to know

Reasons for tests

Your GP will examine you and send you for tests before you see a specialist. These initial tests are to see if your symptoms are caused by cancer or by something else.

If you do have a cancer, the specialist you see will probably send you for tests to find out more about it. This includes finding out the type of cells the cancer started in and whether it has spread.

Tests for thyroid cancer

You may need to go for a number of different tests.

Tests for thyroid cancer can include:

  • physical examination of the neck area
  • blood tests
  • ultrasound of the thyroid
  • biopsy
  • CT scan
  • PET scan (sometimes).

Biopsies for thyroid cancer

A biopsy is when a doctor removes a small piece of the lump or area that might be cancer. A pathologist looks at this under a microscope to see if it is a cancer.

The type of biopsy that is done for thyroid cancer is a fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy. This is usually done as an outpatient and a local anaesthetic may be given to numb the area. Ultrasound is sometimes used to guide the needle to the right place.

What to ask or talk about

Preparing for tests

Going for tests can make some people nervous, but knowing what to expect can help.

Your GP or specialist should tell you why you need each test and what it involves. Use our checklists to help you know what to ask.

Sometimes you need to contact the place where you are having the test for more information. This can include how to prepare for the test, how much it will cost and what you will get back from Medicare and your private health fund.

Ask how long it will take before you hear the results of the test.

checklist Checklists

Use our checklists to find helpful tips or questions to ask.

Next steps

Getting test results

It is normal to feel anxious when you are waiting for test results. 

Your GP or specialist should tell you when the results will be ready and how you will find out about them. Usually you need to make an appointment to get the results.

It is a good idea to take someone with you when you go for this appointment.

Where to get help

There are people you can talk to for more information or support.

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