When was the last time you checked your neck? September is Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month and it is time to check your neck. The thyroid is a butterfly- shaped gland that is found on the front of your neck above the collarbone below your Adams’ apple; it produces hormones that help your body function. (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/thyroidcancer.html)
Although most thyroid nodules are benign some lumps can be cancerous. Caught early cancerous nodules are typically treatable, but some nodules are aggressive and metastasize. (http://www.thyca.org/news/awarenessmonth0912.htm)
Thyroid cancer is the fastest increasing cancer and the 5th most common cancer in women. In 2012, it is estimated that 56,460 people will be diagnosed with thyroid cancer and 1780 will die from thyroid cancer in the US with 200,000 cases predicted worldwide. (http://www.thyca.org/news/awarenessmonth0912.htm)
Often thyroid cancer is diagnosed when a lump (nodule) is noticed in the neck. Often these lumps are discovered during routine examines where a physician takes a minute to check the neck. Twenty-two years ago during a routine physical exam a lump in my neck was discovered that turned out to be cancerous.
Symptoms may vary depending on type of thyroid cancer. Symptoms typically include a thyroid nodule or sometimes coughing, difficulty swallowing, enlargement of thyroid gland, hoarseness or changes in voice, or swelling in neck.
Treatment generally includes surgery to remove the thyroid gland (thyroidectomy) along with radioactive Iodine therapy and thyroid replacement hormone.
Thyroid Cancer can strike at any age. (http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/ThyroidCancer/DetailedGuide/thyroid-cancer) Three out of four cases of thyroid cancer are women with most cases occurring between the ages of 25 and 65. (http://www.thyca.org/news/newdx2012.htm)
Radiation exposure increases the risk of thyroid cancer. Radiation therapy to the head and neck or exposure from nuclear plant disasters increase the chance of malignancy. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002193/) Some thyroid cancers have a genetic component so family history may also be a risk factor.
The city of Redlands has proclaimed September as Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month. Information about Thyroid Cancer is available at the A.K. Smiley Library Medical Reference section or www.thyca.org.
Next time you see your doctor, ask for a “neck check.”