This little organ plays a vital role in your body’s functioning
September is Thyroid Awareness Month—a great time to educate yourself about thyroid cancer, so you can protect against this disease, which is more common than diabetes or heart disease.
Some basic facts
- is a disease of the thyroid gland, located in the base of the throat below the voicebox and above the collarbones.
- is one of the few cancers that has increased in incidence rates over recent years.
- occurs in people of all ages.
- has several types: papillary, follicular, medullary, and anaplastic, as well as variants of those.
Treatments for thyroid cancer
- radioactive iodine treatment
- external beam radiation therapy
- surgery to remove most of the thyroid gland
- thyroid hormone replacement therapy.
Factors associated with thyroid cancer
- being female
- being over 40 (although thyroid cancer affects all age groups from children through seniors),
- a family history of thyroid cancer
- prior exposure of the thyroid gland to radiation.
Thyroid cancer patients generally have a good prognosis. Up to 30 percent of people who are treated for the disease experience recurrence—even decades after the initial diagnosis. For this reason it is important to get regular follow-up examinations once you have been dignosed.
How to check for thyroid cancer
Many patients do not experience symptoms (especially in the early stages of the disease), which can include:
- pain in the throat or neck
- hoarseness or difficulty speaking
- difficulty swallowing or breathing
- a nodule or lump in the front of the neck
- swollen lymph nodes.
There is a simple test you can do at home. All you need is a mirror and a glass of water. (To be absolutely sure, always see your doctor for a physical exam and testing.)
- Step 1: Look in a mirror and focus on the front area of your neck that is above the collarbones, and below the voice box (larynx). Your thyroid gland is located in this area of your neck.
- Step 2: While still looking into the mirror, tip your head back.
- Step 3: Take a drink of water.
- Step 4: While you’re swallowing look in the mirror to see if there are any bulges or bumps. (Be careful not to confuse the Adam’s apple with the thyroid. The thyroid gland is located further down on your neck, closer to the collarbone.) To be sure of what you do or don’t see, repeat this process several times.
- Step 5: If you see any bulges or protrusions, see your doctor. It is possible that you have an enlarged thyroid gland or a thyroid nodule. The doctor might decide you need further testing.
Taking care of your thyroid is an essential part of your health. Take advantage of this month to leaen so you can protect yourself and your loved ones.
This post is part of the weekly blog of the Salter School of Nursing and Allied Health, located in Manchester, NH. Visit us online to learn more, or reach out to schedule a campus tour!