According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 53,990 people in the US have developed thyroid cancer symptoms and have been diagnosed with the disease so far in 2018. The good news? Compared to most other types of cancer, the death rates from thyroid cancer are very low. However, early detection is essential to positive outcomes. Looking for more information on thyroid cancer symptoms? Read on for an overview of all things thyroid cancer and thyroid health.
Thyroid Cancer Symptoms To Look For
In this article:
- About Thyroid Cancer
- Eight Thyroid Cancer Symptoms
- Beyond Thyroid Cancer
- What You Should Tell Your Doctor
About Thyroid Cancer
Located in the front of the neck, the butterfly-shaped thyroid is an endocrine gland. While you may not be able to see or feel your thyroid, it serves many functions. It stores and produces hormones which regulate everything from heart rate and blood pressure to body temperature and weight.
As with other types of cancer, thyroid cancer occurs when cells begin to grow out of control. Sometimes, these growths are non-cancerous or “benign.” But sometimes they are cancerous or “malignant.” This means that they can spread to the lymph nodes and other parts of the body.
There are several different kinds of thyroid cancer, including medullary thyroid cancer (MTC) and follicular thyroid cancer. The type of thyroid cancer you have determines how easy or hard it is to find and treat. Different types of thyroid cancers also grow and spread at different rates.
Thyroid cancer is more common in women than in men. It also tends to strike women at younger ages. Most women who get thyroid cancer are diagnosed in their 40s and 50s. Meanwhile, men are more likely to be diagnosed in their 60s and 70s.
In addition to sex, risk factors for thyroid cancer include heredity, family history, diet, and radiation exposure. Because there are so few risk factors for thyroid cancer, many cases cannot be prevented. Additionally, there is no routine screening for thyroid cancer. This is why it’s so important to know the thyroid cancer symptoms.
Eight Thyroid Cancer Symptoms
Early detection of thyroid cancer is linked with the best diagnoses. The takeaway? The more you know about the symptoms of cancer, the better prepared you’ll be to recognize signs if they occur. According to the American Cancer Society, signs and symptoms of thyroid cancer may include:
- Unusual lumps, bumps, or thyroid nodules, which may grow quickly
- Neck sensitivity
- Neck swelling
- Pain located at the front of the neck or throat (in some cases this pain reaches to the ears)
- Voice changes, such as hoarseness, that persists over time
- Difficulty with swallowing
- Difficulty with breathing
- The presence of a constant cough that is NOT caused by a cold or other explanation
If you notice any of the signs, schedule an appointment with your doctor immediately. While many thyroid cancer symptoms may be benign, it is better to have them checked out as soon as possible. If your doctor suspects thyroid cancer, they will take a biopsy to examine the cells under a microscope.
Beyond Thyroid Cancer
Not all thyroid gland issues are cancerous. In fact, non-cancerous thyroid conditions are more common than both diabetes and heart disease, according to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and the American College of Endocrinology. These include Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, Graves’ disease, and thyroid nodules.
As many as 30 million Americans may be living with thyroid conditions. The majority of them may not even know it. So how can you tell if you have a thyroid problem? Explains the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health, “Diseases of the thyroid cause it to make either too much or too little of the hormone. Depending on how much or how little hormone your thyroid makes, you may often feel restless or tired, or you may lose or gain weight.”
Other signs and symptoms of thyroid hormone problems may include:
- changes in appetite
- a “fuzzy” feeling in the brain
- low sex drive
- heart palpitations
- dry skin
- irregular periods
- high blood pressure
- difficulty regulating your body temperature
- weight gain
- sleep changes
- hair loss and/or thinning hair
- fertility problems
- high cholesterol
- muscle pain
What You Should Tell Your Doctor
As with thyroid cancer, a family history of thyroid disease may merit a thyroid evaluation. Furthermore, some prescription medications, including Lithium and Amiodarone, may also increase your risk of thyroid disease. If you suspect that you have a thyroid condition, ask your doctor for a thyroid function test. Depending on your symptoms, physical exam, and test results, you may be prescribed synthetic hormones.
Additionally, certain lifestyle changes may help ease thyroid disorder symptoms, such as getting enough sleep, relaxation techniques and mindfulness, physical activity, and talking about your feelings. Eating a Mediterranean-style diet can also help with energy levels and weight management.
Know more about thyroid cancer symptoms, treatment, and pathology with this video from Osmosis:
While thyroid cancer and thyroid disorders may be challenging to diagnose, knowing the signs and symptoms can make all the difference. When it comes to thyroid health, the more you know your own body, the better your chances are of stopping a small problem before it becomes a serious one.
If you have more questions about thyroid cancer symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment, comment them below. We’ll make sure to answer your questions and concerns.