When To See A Doctor
If you feel a new swelling or lump in your neck, or if an imaging test incidentally reveals a thyroid growth, it’s important to schedule an appointment with your doctor right away.
During your appointment, your doctor will:
- Perform a physical examination, including a neck examination
- Order an ultrasound of your thyroid
- Check blood tests that may include a thyroid-stimulating hormone , free thyroxine , and thyroid antibodies
Depending on the results of these tests, your primary care or family doctor may refer you to a doctor who specializes in thyroid care . An endocrinologist may take another look at the thyroid nodule with ultrasound in his or her office and perform a fine-needle aspiration biopsy to see whether cancer cells are present.
Thyroid Cancer Doctor Discussion Guide
Get our printable guide for your next doctor’s appointment to help you ask the right questions.
The diagnosis of thyroid cancer has been on the rise both in the United States and worldwide, due in large part to the sophistication of high-resolution imaging tests. In other words, these thyroid nodules that would never have been found years ago are now being identified.
While the majority of these small nodules end up not being cancer, determining which ones are is keyâthis is because most thyroid cancers are curable, especially those that are small and have not spread.
How Is Thyroid Cancer Treated
The treatment of thyroid cancer depends on the type of thyroid cancer that is identified. It can involve multiple types of treatment including surgery, radioactive iodine, radiation therapy, chemotherapy/targeted therapy, and/or thyroid suppressive therapy.
Surgery plays a central role in the treatment of thyroid cancer. The goal of surgery is the removal of the tumor. There are several options for surgical procedures to treat thyroid cancer including:
- Total thyroidectomy-the removal of the entire thyroid gland.
- Near-total thyroidectomy-leaving only a small remnant of thyroid tissue with parathyroid glands, which are attached to the thyroid.;
- Lobectomy-the removal of a single lobe of the thyroid gland; in patients with small papillary thyroid cancers, a lobectomy may be appropriate.
If the thyroid gland is not completely removed during the first surgical procedure, the patient is;always;at risk for recurrence in the portion of the thyroid left behind. Additional surgery to remove the remaining portion of the thyroid gland can also be performed.;
Supplemental Thyroid Hormone Therapy
Radioactive Iodine Therapy
Thyroid Cancer: What Women Should Know
The symptoms start slowly. Fatigue is the most common. There might bechanges in hair, nails or skin, and other vague complaints that could becaused by aging, diet, stress or dozens of other factors.
Women in the prime of their lives, busy with work and families, may noteven notice. When a doctor finally diagnoses an underactivethyroiddue to cancer, it often comes as a shock.
Jonathon Russell, M.D., assistant professor ofOtolaryngology Head and Neck Surgeryat The Johns Hopkins Hospital, says, Typicalthyroid cancerpatients are women between the ages of 30 and 60younger than many peoplewould think. Theyre likely to put off getting seen by a doctor and mayblame their symptoms on other causes.
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Cancer Of The Thyroid Gland
The thyroid gland is located at thebase of your neck and is responsible for the production of hormones.These hormones regulate the speed at which food is converted into energywithin the body. This energy then drives the various processes withinthe body.
This process is known as the metabolism.Your metabolic rate is the speed at which this process occurs whichis directed by hormones released by the thyroid gland, e.g. thyroxine.
We all have an individual metabolicrate with some people having a faster metabolism than others. But thethyroid gland can malfunctionresulting in too many hormones- known as an overactive thyroid, or too little hormones knownas an underactive thyroid.
The thyroid gland also controls theamount of calcium within your body.
The thyroid gland is comprised of twohalves, joined by a bridge. The bridge is called the isthmusand the two halves are called lobes.
It is important to understand thisas cancer usually develops in one or the other lobe. But if cancer ofthe thyroid occurs as a result of family history then it tends to developin both lobes.
Cancer of the thyroid is one of therarest forms of cancer in the UK.
Diagnosing Cancer Of The Thyroid
As these symptoms may indicate a less serious condition, for examplea bacterial throat infection it can bedifficult to determine if this is the case or if you have signs of possiblethyroid cancer.
But if you have a particular symptomsuch as noisy breathing , lumps in your throator a single lump which keeps increasing in size then you will be referredto a specialist.
Your GP will examine you, ask you aboutyour medical history and any inherited diseases or family history. He/shecan conduct a blood test with the aim of checking your thyroid levelsalthough this may be done at the hospital.
He or she will refer you to a specialistif you exhibit any of the symptoms mentioned above and:
- If you are aged 65 and overor are a child .
- Your voice has changed orbecome hoarseness for which there is no obvious reason.
- The lump in your thyroidgland keeps on growing
- There is a history of thyroidcancer within your family
- You have undergone radiotherapyto your neck as a part of a previous treatment.
These all require further investigation.
Once you have been referred to a specialistyou will undergo a battery of tests at the hospital. These will includeX-rays, an ultrasound scan, a biopsy and blood tests. The blood testswill include checking your thyroid levels if this has not been doneat your GPs surgery.
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Thyroid Cancer: Common In Women
Thyroid disorders are more common in women, probably due to the roles of hormones, which are different in femalesthan in males.
Thyroid nodules, Russell says, affect up to 80 percent of women, but only 5percent to 15 percent of those lumps and bumps are malignant. Bettertesting means thyroid tumors are on the rise, he notes, saying that itsprojected to become the third most common cancer.
Malignant and cancer are scary words, but Russell says that mostthyroid cancer is highly treatable, even when the cancer cells spread tonearby lymph nodes, which occurs frequently.
With thyroid cancer we talk about prognosis in terms of 20-year survivalinstead of five years, as we do with most other cancers. Its usually aslow-moving disease. Theres a 98 to 99 percent survival rate at 20 years,he says.
We treat it almost like a chronic condition where the patient getstreatment and visits her doctor regularly for follow-up.
What Your Tongue Tells You About Your Thyroid
When Dr. Wiggy;appeared on The Doctors TV Show, here is what he had to say about the tongue that caught my attention, Sometimes the tongue gets too big for the mouth and actually pushes up against the sides of the teeth and that can suggest the tongue is too large because there are too many toxins. A lot of times that is from having low thyroid.;
I immediately went to the mirror and for the first time in my life looked at my tongue, not just looked at it but really;examined;it closely. I discovered that my tongue was in fact;enlarged. I had 2 out of the 4 tongue issues Dr. Wiggy;describes below. I had no idea;my tongue was so unhealthy looking.
How about you? Have you taken a good look at your tongue?
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What Else Could It Be
A lump in your thyroid could be caused by an infection or a goiter, which is an abnormal growth of the thyroid gland. It might not be cancerous at all. Lumps in the thyroid usually arenât.
But itâs possible to have thyroid cancer without any symptoms at all.
Your doctor will examine your thyroid during routine physical exams. If you have any symptoms between checkups, such as a new nodule on the gland or a rapidly growing one, you should make an appointment to have your thyroid gland checked. Your doctor will do several tests to diagnose the source of the problem and decide on the best treatment.
Early Warning Signs Of Thyroid Cancer
The most common early sign of thyroid cancer is an unusual lump, nodule or swelling in the neck. If you notice a new or growing lump, you should see your doctor, who can run additional tests to identify the cause and determine if it is a tumor. Most nodules on the thyroid are usually benign, but it is important to have any unusual growths examined by a health care professional.
Other early warning signs of thyroid cancer include:
- Swollen glands in the neck
- A cough that persists and is not caused by a cold
Other possible symptoms of thyroid cancer include:
Neck pain: In many cases, neck pain;starts in the front. In some cases, the neck pain may extend all the way to the ears.
Voice changes: Experiencing hoarseness or other voice changes that do not go away could be a sign of thyroid cancer.
Breathing problems: Sometimes thyroid cancer;patients say it feels like they are breathing through a straw. This breathing difficulty is often a symptom of the disease.
Trouble swallowing: A growth or nodule on the thyroid gland may interfere with swallowing.
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Thyroid Symptoms Of The Mouth
The list of symptoms linked to thyroid disease is long. Weight fluctuations, hair loss, vision changes, skin problems, memory problems, sensitivity to hot and cold and menstrual disruption are just a few of the symptoms associated with thyroid problems. One often-overlooked set of symptoms is the problems thyroid disease can cause in the mouth. Thyroid hormone imbalance is behind several mouth and dental health issues.
Burning Mouth Syndrome
Some thyroid patients, especially women in middle age or in menopause, develop Burning Mouth Syndrome, or BMS. As the name suggests, BMS is characterized by a burning sensation on the tongue or the lips or involving the whole mouth. It may be accompanied by a bitter or metallic taste. Treatment for thyroid disease can improve the symptoms of BMS.
Special Concerns: Hypothyroidism
Patients with hypothyroidism, also known as underactive thyroid, may experience macroglossia , gum disease, slow healing of mouth sores and, in children, delayed tooth growth. Problems with hypoglycemia are common in patients with underactive thyroids; hypoglycemia can cause an increased risk of mouth and tooth infections.
Talking to Your Dentist
What Is The Connection Between The Thyroid And Neck Pain
The thyroid is a gland in the front of a persons neck that develops hormones which regulate blood pressure, body temperature, heart rate, and the amount of time it takes for energy to be produced from food. A connection between the thyroid and neck pain is commonly caused by a few different thyroid conditions. Pain in a persons neck may be associated with Hashimotos disease, goiter, and cancer.
Hypothyroidism is a disorder that develops because of a lack of thyroid hormone. It is usually associated with symptoms like depression, weight gain, hair loss, fatigue, intolerance to cold, constipation, impaired memory, and blurred vision. Hashimoto thyroiditis, or Hashimotos disease, is an autoimmune condition that commonly causes hypothyroidism. The symptoms of this disease are often the same as hypothyroidism, but may be accompanied by an enlarged thyroid and neck pain.
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Constipation Or Changes To Bowel Movements
Thyroid hormone is also directly involved in the kinetics of your bowels.;
Put in more basic terms this means that thyroid hormone helps your gastrointestinal tract move normally.;
Your GI tract, whether you realize this or not, is always moving in a slow rhythmic contraction known as peristalsis.
Thyroid hormone helps this peristaltic motion and allows for proper transit time, proper nutrient absorption and normal bowel movements.;
The low thyroid state slows down the rate at which your bowels move and increases the risk for developing overgrowth conditions such as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth and small intestinal fungal overgrowth.
The connection between SIBO and hypothyroidism is quite strong and as many as 50% of hypothyroid patients have been shown to test positive for SIBO .
Hypothyroidism also directly results in constipation due to these effects.;
And remember, persistent symptoms of constipation should go away with thyroid hormone replacement!
Signs And Symptoms Of Thyroid Pain
Thyroid pain may vary in intensity. Some people experience a mild discomfort around the thyroid gland, others describe it as tightness particularly when swallowing or a dull ache throughout the thyroid gland.
Common symptoms of the thyroid pain are:
- the pain usually exacerbates when palpated
- in case of an acute thyroid pain, persistent pain can be an indicator of major thyroid problem requiring medical or surgical intervention
- a neck lump or mass may appear in the neck if the pain is due to goiter and cause severe thyroid pain in neck
- discomfort or pain when swallowing
- hoarse voice
- most of thyroid nodules causing severe pain tend to be malignant. Therefore, it is important to be careful when there is swelling or pain of the thyroid gland.
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How Common Is Thyroid Cancer
Thyroid cancer is a rare form of cancer, accounting for less than 1% of all cancer cases in the UK. Each year, around 2,700 people are diagnosed with thyroid cancer in the UK.
It’s most common in people aged 35 to 39 years and in those aged 70 years or over.
Women are 2;to 3;times more likely to develop thyroid cancer than men. It’s unclear why this is, but it may be;a result of;the hormonal changes associated with the female reproductive system.
What Is The Thyroid
The thyroid;is a;gland located at the front of the neck. You can feel it;just below the thyroid cartilage, or “Adam’s apple.” It is a butterfly-shaped;gland;that stretches across the middle of the neck just below the thyroid cartilage, with its “wings” spreading towards the head, on either side of the thyroid cartilage. These “wings” are called the lobes of the thyroid, with the middle section being called the isthmus.
The thyroid gland produces, stores, and secretes the thyroid hormones thyroxine and triiodothyronine into the bloodstream. The thyroid does this as a response to a hormone produced by the pituitary gland, called thyroid stimulating hormone, or TSH. When the thyroid gland is “turned on” by TSH, it increases its uptake of iodine, which is needed to make thyroid hormone.;
The principal cells of the thyroid are called follicular cells. These cells are mainly responsible for making and secreting thyroid hormone. Thyroid hormone plays an important role in controlling our metabolic rate. Many body functions such as temperature and heart rate are regulated by thyroid hormone. Too much thyroid hormone in your system is called hyperthyroidism, while too little is called hypothyroidism. An imbalance of thyroid hormone may cause serious health problems if not properly treated.
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White Or Red Patches In The Mouth Or Throat
An abnormal-looking patch could be a sign of cancer or precancerous changes.
- White patches are called leukoplakia.
- Red patches are called erythroplakia.
These patches are not cancer. If left untreated, however, they may lead to cancer. A fungal infection called oral thrush can also cause red and white patches.
How Is Thyroid Cancer Diagnosed
Once a thyroid nodule is found, the next step is to determine if the nodule represents a benign growth or malignant tumor. A careful physical exam should be done by a healthcare provider, with attention to the examination of the neck to evaluate for the presence of enlarged lymph nodes. You will also have blood tests to check your thyroid function and hormone levels. If these tests show an over-functioning thyroid gland, then additional tests will be performed to determine if the nodule is composed of benign thyroid tissue that is overproducing thyroid hormone.;
A biopsy is not usually required for benign, “functioning” nodules. A thyroid scan will help distinguish this nodule. This scan is a nuclear medicine study using radioactive iodine. Functioning thyroid tissue takes up iodine to produce normal thyroid hormones. The small amount of radioactive iodine used to take pictures will be taken up by those areas of the thyroid that are producing thyroid hormone. Thus, a nodule composed of functioning thyroid tissue will appear “hot” in these nuclear medicine scans . These “hot nodules” are almost always benign and often require no further workup for thyroid cancer. Nodules that are “cold” are also often benign but can be malignant in 15-20% of cases. Therefore, these deserve more attention and further workup.
Signs Of Thyroid Cancer That Most People Miss
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland in the neck. It produces two hormones, triiodothyronine and thyroxine , that regulate the bodys metabolism. Often, people attribute the first signs of thyroid cancer to other conditions.
Further, its essential to understand that the thyroid carries responsibility for hormone regulation. If the thyroid produces too much hormone, the patients metabolism is too fast, and they become hyperthyroid. If the thyroid produces too little hormone, the patients metabolism is sluggish, and they become hypothyroid.
Thus any thyroid disease can cause severe illnesses.