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Every year, September is Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month!
This annual event was created to spread awareness of the symptoms and effects of thyroid cancer and the importance of early diagnosis and treatment. There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding thyroid disease, and thyroid cancer is no different!
No, it is not ‘the good cancer’.
There are four different types of thyroid cancer:
- Papillary cancer
- Follicular cancer
- Medullary cancer
For more info on the different types of thyroid cancer, please see here.
How To Spot Thyroid Cancer
Some people with thyroid cancer do not seem to develop any symptoms, whereas others may notice they have a goitre or enlarged thyroid gland.
Physical symptoms can include:
- A 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.
How To Check Your Neck:
- Stand in front of a mirror, removing anything that doesn’t give you a clear view of your neck e.g. scarves.
- 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 may help to highlight any lumps.
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, such as 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.
For info on goitres, nodules and enlargement, see here.
What is The Treatment for Thyroid Cancer?
Treatment for thyroid cancer typically ends in the patient becoming hypothyroid and requiring thyroid medication for life. However, treatment for thyroid cancer can depend on the type as well as size and stage.
- 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, in order to replace what their non-existent thyroid is no longer producing for them. Thus, they become hypothyroid following a thyroidectomy.
- Some are given radioactive iodine treatment, also known as remnant ablation. This is often given to kill off any thyroid tissue remaining after the thyroid surgery, and also often ends in lifelong hypothyroidism.
Related Blog Post: Should I Have RAI or a Thyroidectomy?
- Experts recommend that TSH levels should be kept at a low level to help prevent a recurrence of the cancer, often meaning a suppressed TSH.
Just like having hypothyroidism, thyroid cancer requires lifelong monitoring, however, does have 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.
If you are hypothyroid following treatment for thyroid cancer, you may wish to explore research found in many thyroid books shown here. There are also other resources for those with experience of thyroid cancer, to help them deal with their diagnosis and get back on top of their health.
You can also check out more articles listed under the ‘thyroid cancer’ category.
How Can I Help Spread Awareness?
This Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month, you can share posts and articles such as this one, as well as images that help spread awareness of Thyroid Cancer. You may also wish to share your own experience and journey with thyroid cancer to highlight the importance of awareness.
Talking about thyroid cancer with friends and family and informing them of the signs and symptoms can be a good idea, as well as showing support by donating to or supporting thyroid charities and advocacies that push for further awareness and research.
There are celebrities and those in the public eye who have been diagnosed and treated for thyroid cancer. These include musician Rod Stewart, actress Sofia Vergara, Argentinian president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and the band CHIMAIRA’s frontman, Mark Hunter.
Have you had experience of thyroid cancer? Let me know your story in the comments section below.
You can click on the hyperlinks in the above post to learn more and see references to information given.
Find this article helpful? The book Be Your Own Thyroid Advocate: When You’re Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired, goes into more detail and discusses how thyroid patients can live their best life.