Background on Thyroid Cancer

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the neck. It produces hormones that regulate every aspect of our metabolism, from heart rate to how quickly we burn calories. During a lifetime, the thyroid can develop solid or fluid-filled lumps called nodules. Most of these are noncancerous and cause no symptoms. But a small percentage are cancerous.

More than 56,000 Americans are diagnosed each year with thyroid cancer, with incidence three times more common in women than in men. There are four types of thyroid cancer: papillary, follicular, medullary and anaplastic. The differentiated thyroid carcinomas (papillary and follicular) are the most common type and grow slowly thus having the best outcome. While many patients with early stage cancer are cured by removing the thyroid, there are no viable treatment options for patients with advanced disease.

  • Thyroid cancer is the most common endocrine cancer with the fastest growing incidence rate in both men and women

  • Thyroid cancer is one of the few cancers with an increase in incidence rates over recent years

  • Thyroid cancer has become the 5th most common cancer in women

  • The American Cancer Society estimates there will be around 56,000 new cases of thyroid cancer in the U.S. in 2012.  Of these new cases, about 36,550 will occur in women and about 11,470 will occur in men

Thyroid Neck Check Steps

The best way to fight thyroid cancer is to detect the disease in its early stages. Performing a self-examination of your thyroid gland on a regular basis combined with a yearly clinical exam is the key.

All you'll need to perform a neck check is a glass of water and a handheld mirror.

1) Hold the mirror in your hand, focusing on the lower front area of your neck, above the collarbones, and below the voice box (larynx). Your thyroid gland is located in this area of your neck.

2) While focusing on this area in the mirror, tip your head back.

3) Take a drink of water and swallow.

4) As you swallow, look at your neck. Check for any bulges or protrusions in this area when you swallow.
Reminder: Don’t confuse the Adam’s apple with the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is located further down on your neck, closer to the collarbone. You may want to repeat this process several times.

5) If you do see any bulges or protrusions in this area, see your physician. You may have an enlarged thyroid gland or a thyroid nodule that should be checked to determine whether further evaluation is needed.

Neck Check steps proviced with permission from the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists


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