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How To Check If You Have Thyroid Cancer

Screening Tests Have Risks

Thyroid exam: How to check your thyroid with Dr. Christianson

Decisions about screening tests can be difficult. Not all screening tests are helpful and most have risks. Before having any screening test, you may want to discuss the test with your doctor. It is important to know the risks of the test and whether it has been proven to reduce the risk of dying from cancer.

Your Thyroid Does Change As You Age

As with any organ, your thyroid may start to function differently as you get older.

Thyroid dysfunction generally occurs in either early adulthood or between the ages of 40 to 50, Lee said. As we get into our 70s, TSH naturally increases, meaning that your thyroid hormone levels may shift to be a little lower. This seems to happen to protect our bodies as we age, with less stress on our heart and metabolic system.

This is important to note, Lee said, because it gives physicians a greater threshold to treat someone who is older who may have higher TSH levels. Alternatively, low TSH levels can be more harmful the older we get.

This isnt to say that if youre young, you dont need to think about your thyroid at all. Thyroid disorders can happen at many different ages, as can lumps.

We do know that the younger population, those in their 20s, 30s and 40s, can develop thyroid nodules, Rao said. The vast majority of these nodules, especially if theyre below one centimeter, are 95% of the time completely benign. But its still important to be aware that they are there, and periodically monitor them.

Action # : Obtain A Cup Of Water As Well As A Mirror

Load a glass with water and also stand in front of a well-lit mirror that provides a great view of the entire throat, from the collarbone to the chin. Know the area that your thyroid will manage it rests over your collarbone and hugs your throat in the form of a little butterfly, simply below your throat, simply around the bottom one-third of your throat.

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What Are The Symptoms Of Thyroid Cancer

You or your healthcare provider might feel a lump or growth in your neck called a thyroid nodule. Dont panic if you have a thyroid nodule. Most nodules are benign . Only about three out of 20 thyroid nodules turn out to be cancerous .

Other signs of thyroid cancer include:

What Is The Thyroid Gland

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Your thyroid gland is one of many glands that make up your endocrine system. Endocrine glands release hormones that control different bodily functions.

The pituitary gland in your brain controls your thyroid gland and other endocrine glands. It releases thyroid-stimulating hormone . As the name suggests, TSH stimulates your thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormone.

Your thyroid needs iodine, a mineral, to make these hormones. Iodine-rich foods include cod, tuna, dairy products, whole-grain bread and iodized salt.

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Thyroid Nodules Are Common But Usually Are Not Cancer

Your doctor may find a lump in your thyroid during a routine medical exam. A thyroid nodule is an abnormal growth of thyroid cells in the thyroid. Nodules may be solid or fluid-filled.

When a thyroid nodule is found, an ultrasound of the thyroid and a fine-needle aspiration biopsy are often done to check for signs of cancer. Blood tests to check thyroid hormone levels and for antithyroid antibodies in the blood may also be done to check for other types of thyroid disease.

Thyroid nodules usually don’t cause symptoms or need treatment. Sometimes the thyroid nodules become large enough that it is hard to swallow or breathe and more tests and treatment are needed. Only a small number of thyroid nodules are diagnosed as cancer.

What Are The Types Of Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer is classified based on the type of cells from which the cancer grows. Thyroid cancer types include:

  • Papillary: Up to 80% of all thyroid cancers are papillary. This cancer type grows slowly. Although papillary thyroid cancer often spreads to lymph nodes in the neck, the disease responds very well to treatment. Papillary thyroid cancer is highly curable and rarely fatal.
  • Follicular: Follicular thyroid cancer accounts for up to 15% of thyroid cancer diagnoses. This cancer is more likely to spread to bones and organs, like the lungs. Metastatic cancer can be more challenging to treat.
  • Medullary: About 2% of thyroid cancers are medullary. A quarter of people with medullary thyroid cancer have a family history of the disease. A faulty gene may be to blame.
  • Anaplastic: This aggressive thyroid cancer is the hardest type to treat. It can grow quickly and often spreads into surrounding tissue and other parts of the body. This rare cancer type accounts for about 2% of thyroid cancer diagnoses.

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Second Way To Check For Thyroid Cancer Wellness Visit With Your Primary Care Physician

The second best way to check for thyroid cancer is to stay up to date with your medical visits. This may mean an annual check-up with your primary care physician or your OB/GYN. Both types of physicians will take a complete history and do a thorough physical exam as part of the thyroid cancer screening process. When your physician is taking your history, you will be asked many questions about recent signs and symptoms. Through these questions, certain symptoms may be noted that could be related to a thyroid cancer. If certain symptoms like a change in voice, difficulty swallowing, or a sense of a lump in your throat are mentioned, then a proper thyroid ultrasound would then be ordered.

During your physical exam portion of a thyroid cancer screening, your neck would also be felt to detect any lumps or irregularities. While your doctor is feeling your neck, he/she may feel a growth in your thyroid or an enlarged lymph node. These findings could be indicative of a thyroid cancer and would also prompt a dedicated thyroid ultrasound.

What To Read Next

I Have Thyroid Cancer
  • The best page of this website is the video of our doctors performing a complete parathyroid operation, removing two parathyroid tumors–all in less than 13 minutes. You can see that the thyroid is examined on both sides for worrisome nodules.
  • For more information on thyroid cancer we refer you to the very comprehensive ThyroidCancer.com website. This is written by Dr Gary Clayman at the Clayman Thyroid Cancer Center.
  • More information on Thyroid Nodules and when to have a FNA needle biopsy. Very good information!
  • More information on Thyroid Cancer Surgery and when a larger, more extensive thyroid cancer operation is necessary.

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Causes Of Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer happens when there’s a change to the DNA inside thyroid cells which causes them to grow uncontrollably and produce a lump.

It’s not usually clear what causes this change, but there are a number of things that can increase your risk.

These include:

  • other thyroid conditions, such as an inflamed thyroid or goitre but not an overactive thyroid or underactive thyroid
  • a family history of thyroid cancer your risk is higher if a close relative has had thyroid cancer
  • radiation exposure in childhood such as radiotherapy
  • a bowel condition called familial adenomatous polyposis
  • acromegaly a rare condition where the body produces too much growth hormone

What Is Molecular Profiling

At UCLA, thyroid nodules with indeterminate biopsies are sent out for an additional molecular marker test. An indeterminate biopsy result is the gray zone where the risk of cancer is intermediate but cannot be ignored.

Sometimes the biopsy result is reported as indeterminate. This means the cells are not normal, but there are not definite signs of cancer. When biopsies are indeterminate, the risk of thyroid cancer is 15-30%.

In the past, to avoid missing a cancer, we recommended thyroid lobectomy to establish a definitive diagnosis. Now, we use molecular profiling. This refers to commercial DNA or RNA tests made specifically for indeterminate thyroid nodules. If the genetic profile appears benign, patients can avoid surgery and we simply watch the nodule over time with neck ultrasound.

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There Is No Standard Or Routine Screening Test For Thyroid Cancer

There is no standard or routine screening test used for early detection of thyroid cancer. Thyroid cancer that does not cause symptoms may be found during the following:

How To Prevent Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid

Here you can get information about How to Prevent Thyroid Cancer. Your thyroid may be a small, butterfly-shaped gland situated within the front of the neck, which makes hormones that control metabolism, pulse, vital sign, and body temperature.

Thyroid cancer begins when its cells change and grow uncontrollably, which eventually form small nodules. There are a few different types of thyroid cancer, and most are curable when detected early. Most of the people with thyroid cancer develop it for unknown reasons, so effective prevention is difficult to know. However, reducing the most common risk factors can help prevent thyroid cancer in some cases.

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Know The Risk Factors For Hypothyroidism And Thyroid Cancer

They may not be considered preventable, but hypothyroidism and thyroid cancer share a few risk factors that could increase your likelihood of developing either condition and make you more vigilant about watching for them.

Most people diagnosed with thyroid cancer are 40 or older. Although those diagnosed with hypothyroidism are typically older than 60, both conditions are more common among women than men.

Exposure to radiation is another risk factor for both hypothyroidism and thyroid cancer. Thyroid cancer is associated with a history of ionizing radiation exposure such as radiation used to treat acne or enlarged adenoids in the 1950s or mantle radiation used to treat lymphoma, notes Dr. Sullivan.

Research has shown that radioactive fallout from nuclear weapons or power plant accidents have increased childrens risk for thyroid cancer. Anyone who has received radiation to the thyroid, neck, or chest is also at greater risk for hypothyroidism.

If you have a family history of thyroid disease, youre also at greater risk for hypothyroidism. In addition, certain inherited conditions or a family history of the disease have been linked to thyroid cancer.

A thyroid condition known as Hashimotos thyroiditis is associated with an increased risk for thyroid cancer. This autoimmune disease is also the most common cause of hypothyroidism. With Hashimotos, the immune system makes antibodies that damage the thyroid and interfere with its ability to release thyroid hormone.

How To Check Your Thyroid For Any Issues

Both Lee and Rao said there arent any recommendations for routine thyroid screenings in cases that dont involve symptoms or family history, so its important to speak to your doctor if any of these confusing red flags have you feeling off. From there, your doctor can do a series of tests in addition to bloodwork.

Your doctor may start by examining the thyroid with their hands this is called palpation, Rosenfeld said. They will place their fingers on the bottom of the neck while they are facing or standing behind you. You may be asked to drink water to make the thyroid move, to see if they feel any abnormalities.

If anything does feel unusual, Rosenfeld said, your doctor may order an ultrasound to check for any potential thyroid nodules or enlargement of the thyroid. They may also order bloodwork to check specific TSH, T3 or T4 levels or thyroid antibodies, which could signal an autoimmune thyroid condition like Hashimotos disease.

From there, doctors can get a picture of your thyroid health and determine the next steps to take, or check for a separate issue behind your symptoms, such as anemia or a vitamin D deficiency unrelated to the thyroid.

Its important to keep in mind that aside from eating a healthy, balanced diet and getting enough exercise there is no special thyroid diet you should be doing, Rosenfeld said.

You should repeat this a few times to get a good visual. Heres a video that shows exactly how to do the at-home process.

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Get A Cup Of Water And A Mirror

Fill a cup with water and stand in front of a well-lit mirror that offers a good view of your entire throat, from collarbone to chin. Know the area you will be checkingyour thyroid rests above your collarbone and hugs your throat in the shape of a small butterfly, just below the larynx, right around the bottom one-third of your throat.

Age Gender And Being Exposed To Radiation Can Affect The Risk Of Thyroid Cancer

How To Do A Thyroid Neck Check Self-Exam

Anything that increases your risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer not having risk factors doesnt mean that you will not get cancer. Talk with your doctor if you think you may be at risk.

Risk factors for thyroid cancer include the following:

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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 About Other Treatments That I Hear About

When you have cancer you might hear about other ways to treat the cancer or treat your symptoms. These may not always be standard medical treatments. These treatments may be vitamins, herbs, special diets, and other things. You may wonder about these treatments.

Some of these are known to help, but many have not been tested. Some have been shown not to help. A few have even been found to be harmful. Talk to your doctor about anything youre thinking about using, whether its a vitamin, a diet, or anything else.

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What Are The Signs And Symptoms Related To Thyroid Nodules

Most thyroid nodules do not cause any symptoms. Some thyroid nodules show up as a painless lump in the neck that you can feel or see. Thyroid nodules usually move up and down with swallowing.

When thyroid nodules become large they may cause symptoms by pressing on the airway or esophagus. These are also called compressive symptoms. Compressive symptoms include:

  • discomfort with swallowing

At the UCLA Endocrine Center in Los Angeles, multiple layers of evaluation are designed to help you avoid invasive tests and surgery whenever possible. Consultation, ultrasound, and FNA can all be performed in a single visit.

Initial evaluation of a newly discovered thyroid nodule begins with:

  • Assessment by an endocrinologist or endocrine surgeon
  • Thyroid function tests
  • Neck ultrasound performed by your doctor

An ultrasound is a highly accurate tool to visualize your nodule. There is no associated radiation with ultrasounds and it is non-invasive. Ultrasounds are cost-effective as most patients really don’t need any other imaging because the ultrasounds are the best way to look at the thyroid, all present nodules, and the lymph nodes in the neck.

Our cytopathologists evaluate over 1000 samples per year, so we are confident in the accuracy of our biopsies. When biopsy does not give a clear answer, we automatically use molecular profiling to refine the diagnosis.

The Often Overlooked Warning Signs Of Thyroid Cancer

Check Your Neck * Thyroid and Neck Cancer Prevention ...

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The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2020, approximately 52,890 new cases of thyroid cancer will be diagnosed and that there will be approximately 2,180 deaths from thyroid cancer. While most thyroid cancer is found by accident, there are warning signs you should be aware of for a better chance of early detection.

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Does A Thyroid Cancer Lump Hurt When I Put Pressure On It

It is usually painless, says Lorch. If it is tender, that could mean that a tumor is growing relatively fast, which could be a warning sign. On the other hand, there are a lot of things that could cause discomfort in the thyroid gland, like inflammation, so pain is not necessarily a good or bad sign.

In fact, aside from tenderness or difficulty swallowing, symptoms of thyroid cancer are often subtle. Thyroid cancer cases are generally found during a routine checkup, or through imaging tests done because of other health concerns.

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