Today is the 1st September, which marks the start of Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month, an annual event to spread awareness of the effects and the importance of early diagnosis and treatment of thyroid cancer.
Some thyroid cancer facts we should be aware of:
- Thyroid cancer is the fastest growing cancer among women, by number of new cases.
- Thyroid cancer rates have doubled over the past thirty years and continue to increase.
- Thyroid cancer is the most common endocrine cancer. It is a cancerous tumour or growth located within the thyroid gland. This can often lead to various symptoms of thyroid disease and tenderness/swelling.
- The ‘five year survival rate’ tells you what percentage of people live at least five years after the cancer is found. The five year survival rate for people with thyroid cancer is 98%. The ten year survival rate and fifteen year survival rate are 97% and 95%, respectively. So prospects are quite good.
- Those of us with Hashimoto’s (so around 90% of hypothyroidism/underactive thyroid patients) are three times more likely to develop thyroid cancer.
Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month is a worldwide observance of the disease initiated by ThyCa: Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association. This important month promotes thyroid cancer awareness for early detection, treatment, and increased research to achieve cures for all thyroid cancer.
While many people survive thyroid cancer, it can be a complicated cancer to diagnose and treat, which should also be shared throughout this important month.
Just like having hypothyroidism, thyroid cancer requires lifelong monitoring, but has a high survival rate. By closely monitoring, it helps the patient and their doctor to keep on top of any possible recurrence of the cancer. Thyroid cancer is two to three times more common in women compared to men, although the cause/s for thyroid cancer, are quite unknown.
There isn’t just an overall ‘thyroid cancer’, but actually four different types. These are:
- Papillary cancer
- Follicular cancer
- Medullary cancer
For more info on the different types of thyroid cancer, click here. It is important to catch thyroid cancer as early as possible to aid recovery time and rate of survival.
Treatment for thyroid cancer depends on the type, as well as it’s size and the stage it is at. We’re all individual after all and so are cases of the disease.
- In most cases of thyroid cancer, the thyroid gland is surgically removed. This is known as a thyroidectomy. After a thyroidectomy, patients require lifelong thyroid medication, to replace what they’re non-existent thyroid is no longer producing for them. They become hypothyroid following a thyroidectomy.
- Some are given radioactive iodine treatment, also known as remnant ablation (which sounds scary, I know). This is often given to kill off any thyroid tissue remaining after the thyroid surgery.
- Experts recommend that TSH levels should be kept a low level to help prevent a recurrence of the cancer.
So, what should I be looking for?
Some patients with thyroid cancer do not develop any symptoms, whereas others may notice they have a goitre or enlarged thyroid gland.
Physical symptoms can include:
- Pain in the neck
- A hoarse voice
- Enlarged lymph nodes/neck/thyroid
- Thyroid nodules
Remember, if you suspect anything suspicious or indicative of thyroid cancer or any complications of your health, always get to a doctor as soon as possible for examination.
Checking your neck for goitres, nodules and abnormalities is important to do so you can getappropriate treatment, if needed, for anything that isn’t right, e.g. nodules, goitre and/or thyroid cancer, as soon as possible.
You can check your thyroid for these by following the below.
- First of all, you need to get yourself in front of a mirror, removing anything that doesn’t give you a clear view of your neck, like turtle necks and scarves.
- Then stretch your neck back, with your chin pointing towards the ceiling.
- Closely look at your neck, looking for any enlargement or lumpiness.
- Swallowing some water might help.
Feel where your thyroid is, and around it, very gently, to see if you can feel any enlargement or lumps
- If you think you can feel something not quite right, like any enlargement, tenderness (besides the uncomfortable feeling of touching your neck area) or lumps, you should see a doctor as soon as possible to get their opinion.
If you see a doctor who insists it is nothing to worry about, seek another doctor and don’t give up until you are satisfied.
For info on goitres, nodules and enlargement, see here.
How can I help spread awareness?
Well, there are a few things you can do! You can share posts and articles like this one, as well as info-graphics and images that help spread awareness of Thyroid Cancer.
Talk about thyroid cancer with friends and family, and let them know about the signs and symptoms. Show support by donating to thyroid charities and advocacies to push for further awareness and research to be done.
You can click on the hyperlinks in the above post to learn more and see references to information given, but more reading and references can also be found at:
Written by Rachel, The Invisible Hypothyroidism
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Rachel is a Thyroid Patient Advocate and Expert with Six 2018 WEGO Health Award Nominations. She is a highly ranked writer appearing in the Top Hypothyroidism Websites and Top Thyroid Websites 2018, and is a qualified Diet and Nutritional Advisor, also currently studying for relevant qualifications and certificates in Life Coaching, Motivational Speaking, Reflexology and more. She has worked with The National Academy of Hypothyroidism, The BBC, The Mighty, Dr. Hedberg, Thyroid UK and ThyroidChange, to name just a few. She is well recognised as a trusted and useful contributor to the thyroid community.