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.

There are 4 Thyroid Cancers

1. Papillary 2. Follicular both curable (chemo and radiation can be effective) if diagnosed early
3. Medullary 4. Anaplastic both have no known cure(chemo or radiation is not effective) no matter how early a person is diagnosed. However in the case of MTC if it is diagnosed early it can help reduce the risk of metastases (spreading) to other organs and therefore a longer survival rate and less surgeries. 

So I would like to share symptoms that people have had (before any lump occurred in neck area) and were attributed to other problems yet they were the start of symptoms of MTC. Though this cancer is rare in comparison to others its is really worthwhile knowing what to look for. 

1. Unexplained flushing in face and neck occurs anytime but usually worse when drinking alcohol 
2. Unexplained persistant bouts of Diarrhea (usually doctors attribute to irritable bowel without investigation)
3. Tired feeling of dragging yourself through the day 
4. Unexplained Loss of weight (when not dieting)
5. Blood tests for thyroid function (TSH) are normal -Medullary unlike Papillary or Follicular does not affect thyroid function. Medullary shows up in bloods as elevated Calcitonin this is something that is not done as part of a routine blood test 😐
6. Shortness of breath.
7. Lump in neck 

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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