The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped, quarter-sized gland that wraps around the trachea. It produces hormones that are responsible for controlling body temperature, metabolism, and heart rate. Thyroid hormones also regulate how much calcium is present in the blood.
During its early stages, you may not show any symptoms or signs of thyroid cancer. In many instances, thyroid cancer is found during routine neck examinations or an imaging scan that’s performed to diagnose another health condition. Usually, you cannot feel your thyroid simply by touching. However, when cancer is present, there may be a noticeable lump that increases in size. Here is a guide on the signs and symptoms of thyroid cancer, as well as what steps you should take if you experience any.
Early Warning Signs
First and foremost, the most common early sign of thyroid cancer is an unusual nodule, lump, or swelling in the neck. If you spot a new or growing lump, it’s time to see your doctor. Only a medical professional can run additional tests to establish and pinpoint the cause, as well as determine whether it’s a tumor or not. Mot thyroid nodules are normally benign. While this is reassuring, it’s still important you visit a health care professional to get any unusual growths examined.
As well as unusual lumps, there are other early warning signs of thyroid cancer to look out for. These include hoarseness, fatigue, swollen glands in the neck, and a persistent cough that doesn’t go away. Understandably, any of these symptoms could be a result of an array of health issues, so it’s always best to get yourself checked out as soon as possible.
Other Possible Symptoms
In addition to knowing about the early warning signs of thyroid cancer, there are other possible symptoms that could indicate you have the disease. The first of these is neck pain. In many instances, neck pain begins in the front. However, it can extend all the way to the ears too. You may experience voice changes that don’t go away too. This is another potential sign of thyroid cancer.
Sometimes, thyroid cancer patients feel as though they’re breathing through a straw. If you have noticed changes to your breathing and they’re significantly impacting your day-to-day quality of life, it’s important that you visit your doctor as quickly as possible. Another possible sign of thyroid cancer is trouble swallowing. You may have a nodule or growth on the thyroid gland that interferes with swallowing.
Recurrent Thyroid Cancer
There are symptoms and signs of recurrent thyroid cancer that are important to know about. The first of these is a lump in the neck or swelling that grows rapidly. Another sign is trouble swallowing or breathing. Other warning signs of recurrent thyroid cancer include voice changes and a continuous cough that’s not linked with a cold.
Early thyroid cancer relapse signs may not be apparent at first. This makes it more important than ever to have regular screenings and follow-up appointments. At these meetings, you may need to have physical examinations, imaging tests, or blood tests. These are designed to screen for cancer recurrence, as well as other health concerns. Make sure you let your doctor know about any symptoms you’re experiencing.
What to Do Next
If you experience any of the signs above, it’s vital you consult with your doctor. This is the only way of getting an accurate thyroid cancer diagnosis. Firstly, your doctor may conduct a physical examination and manually palpate your throat and neck to look for abnormal growths or areas of swelling. Your doctor may look over your family and personal medical history too and ask questions about your symptoms and risk factors.
If cancer is suspected, there may be various diagnostic tests you must undergo. These include ultrasounds, chest x-rays, and a CT scan. You may also have an MRI scan which can create highly detailed images of your thyroid and its surrounding areas. Ezra can provide a thyroid MRI which can be used to figure out how big the thyroid cancer is. If there is suspicious tissue present, your doctor may take a small sample to confirm a cancer diagnosis. This biopsy may be taken through a surgical biopsy or fine-needle aspiration.
Knowing about the risk factors of thyroid cancer can help you stay one step ahead and take a look at your own family history to determine if you’re at risk of developing the disease. Thyroid cancer is more prevalent if you are between the ages of 25 and 65, and if you’ve been exposed to radiation in the neck or head area.
Women are three times more likely to be diagnosed with thyroid cancer when compared to men. If you had neck or head radiation treatments in childhood, these are also risk factors for thyroid cancer. Don’t delay in speaking to your doctor if you have any questions. They can give more detailed advice on risk factors associated with thyroid cancer.
Types of Thyroid Cancer
There are 4 main types of thyroid cancer. The first of these is papillary carcinoma. This is the most common type and accounts for roughly 8 in 10 cases. Papillary carcinoma normally affects individuals under 40, with women in particular being most at risk. The second type is follicular carcinoma. This accounts for up to 1 in 10 cases and normally affects middle-aged women.
The third type is medullary thyroid carcinoma. This accounts for less than 1 in 10 cases. However, unlike the other types of thyroid cancer, medullary thyroid carcinoma can run in families. The last type is anaplastic thyroid carcinoma. This is the most serious and rarest type and accounts for roughly 1 in 50 cases. This type of thyroid cancer normally affects those aged 60 and over.
Although rare, thyroid cancer can be life-threatening if not diagnosed and treated early. Having a solid knowledge of the signs and symptoms of the disease, and what action to take if you suspect you may have thyroid cancer is vital for getting the right treatment.