The thyroid is located in the front of your neck, with lobes on either side of the trachea that are attached with a narrow piece of the gland. Beneath your Adam’s apple or thyroid cartilage, this butterfly-shaped gland is essential to many functions of the human body, helping to make hormones that regulate metabolism, body temperature, heart rate, breathing, and levels of calcium in your blood.
Awareness of potential thyroid cancer symptoms can help with early detection, allowing you to access appropriate treatment options. Richmond University Medical Center takes a closer look at thyroid cancer and why early detection is so crucial.
Types and Symptoms of Thyroid Cancer
The thyroid contains different kinds of cells, and distinct types of cancers develop from each kind of cell. Some of the more common thyroid cancers diagnosed in the U.S. include:
Most of the cancers detected in the thyroid are called papillary. These usually affect one of the lobes of the gland. However, they can also affect the lymph nodes of the neck.
The next most common thyroid cancer is called follicular. These cancers are more common in countries where there is not enough iodine in the diet. If untreated, other parts of the body can be affected, such as bones or lungs.
Other cancers of the thyroid include Hurthle cell, medullary, anaplastic, and lymphoma. These are less commonly found and may be more difficult to treat. Regardless of the type, thyroid cancer generally presents with symptoms such as:
- Pain in the throat or neck
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
- Hoarseness or other vocal changes
- Trouble with swallowing
- Lump in the neck
How to Self-Screen for Thyroid Cancer
An important element of thyroid cancer awareness is to regularly examine the neck area. You can check your thyroid gland by sipping a glass of water and looking into a handheld mirror.
- Look at the lower front area of the neck, under the Adam’s apple, and above the collarbone.
- Tip your head back.
- Drink and swallow a sip of water, watching your neck as you swallow the water.
- Notice if there are any bulges or lumps.
- Let your physician know if you see something or have questions.
An additional method of checking your thyroid is to use your fingers to feel the outside of the neck. Start at the Adam’s apple and gently move your fingers to the next section of cartilage in the neck, above the collarbone. Place fingers on either side and swallow. You should be able to feel any lumps, and if you do, contact one of our Ear, Nose and Throat physicians.
Treatment Options and Outcomes
Awareness of symptoms and early screening of thyroid cancer can lead to early detection. Once thyroid cancer is found and diagnosed, most patients recover well after treatment. Because there are different types of cancers and can be caught at varying stages of disease, the treatments are personalized to each patient.
Surgical options for patients include the removal of the entire thyroid gland, parts of the gland that are cancerous, and lymph nodes when they have been affected by thyroid cancer. Nonsurgical options for treating thyroid cancer include chemotherapy, radiation, or oral medications. After the initial surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments, patients are monitored to detect any remaining cancer or any resurgence of thyroid cancer.
To learn more about thyroid cancer, contact Richmond University Medical Center today, and request an appointment if you have any concerns about your thyroid health.