Endocrine and Thyroid Cancer Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Risks

Some endocrine cancers share common symptoms and signs. But, most types cause symptoms that affect the functions of the associated gland or nearby structures.

Benign and cancerous tumors can cause similar symptoms.

UPMC CancerCenter specialists have experience in finding the cause of endocrine symptoms.

We'll confirm whether your endocrine tumor is cancerous or non-cancerous. Then we'll devise a treatment plan that works for you.

Common Symptoms of Endocrine Cancers

Adrenal cancer symptoms

  • Belly pain
  • Diabetes
  • Excessive hair growth
  • Excessive sweating
  • Headache
  • Heart palpitations
  • High blood pressure
  • Libido changes
  • Low potassium levels
  • Unexplained weight changes
  • Weakness

Pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer symptoms

Symptoms may differ depending on the site and cell type of the cancer.

They may include:

  • Belly pain
  • Bloating
  • Change in stool color or blood in the stool
  • Diarrhea
  • Heartburn
  • Heart palpitations
  • Jaundice
  • Low blood sugar levels
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Rash
  • Rectal pain
  • Unexplained weight loss

Parathyroid cancer symptoms

These symptoms are the same as hyperparathyroidism symptoms, making a precise diagnosis crucial:

  • Bone pain
  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Excessive urination
  • Fatigue
  • Gastroduodenal ulcers
  • Kidney stones
  • Lump in the neck
  • Memory loss
  • Osteoporosis/osteopenia

Pituitary cancer symptoms

  • Excess growth hormone (acromegaly)
  • Cushing’s syndrome
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Impotence
  • Infertility
  • Menstrual abnormalities
  • Mood changes
  • Vision problems
  • Unexpected lactation

Thyroid Cancer Symptoms and Signs

A thyroid cancer diagnosis most often occurs after doctors find a thyroid nodule by touching the neck or from imaging scans.

Symptoms are rare, but some symptoms in both benign and cancerous thyroid conditions may include:

  • Breathing problems
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Hoarseness
  • Lump in the front of the neck
  • Pain in the throat or neck
  • Swollen lymph nodes/glands in the neck

Endocrine Cancer Risk Factors

Doctors don't know what causes endocrine cancer in every case, but they link some conditions or factors with increased risk.

Endocrine cancer risk factors vary based on the affected gland or system.

Adrenal cancers may be hereditary and doctors associate risks with:

  • Carney complex
  • Hereditary paraganglioma syndromes
  • Li-Fraumeni syndrome
  • Multiple endocrine neoplasia types 1 and 2
  • Neurofibromatosis type 1
  • Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome

Pancreatic neuroendocrine cancers can be hereditary and risks may include:

  • Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1)
  • Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome

Other neuroendocrine cancer risk factors differ based on the subtype of disease, but — in general — can include:

  • Age over 70 (Merkel cell carcinoma)
  • Sun exposure (Merkel cell carcinoma)
  • Arsenic exposure
  • Compromised immunity (from HIV or anti-rejection drugs after transplant)
  • Being male

Parathyroid cancer risk factors are mostly genetic:

  • Familial isolated hyperparathyroidism
  • MEN1

Pituitary cancer risk factors are also genetic:

  • Carney complex
  • McCune-Albright syndrome
  • MEN1
  • Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 4

Endocrine cancer prognosis depends on a range of factors:

  • Response to treatment
  • Stage at time of diagnosis
  • Tumor size

Thyroid Cancer Risk Factors

Childhood exposure to radiation of the head and neck increases the risk of thyroid cancer.

Some hereditary disorders can also increase thyroid cancer risk:

  • Carney complex
  • Cowden disease
  • Familial adenomatous polyposis)
  • Familial medullary thyroid cancer
  • Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2A
  • Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2B

Thyroid cancer prognosis depends on factors such as:

  • Age
  • Functioning or non-functioning tumor status
  • Basic health
  • Response to treatment
  • Stage at time of diagnosis
  • Tumor size

Contact Us About Endocrine and Thyroid Cancer Symptoms

To learn more about endocrine and thyroid cancer symptoms and treatment at UPMC CancerCenter, call 412-647-2811. Or, complete an endocrine and thyroid cancer contact form.