In 2019, experts estimate approximately 52,000 people will develop thyroid cancer. The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland in the front of the neck. A healthy thyroid produces hormones that are critical to a wide variety of bodily functions. Among its multiple roles, thyroid hormone helps regulate metabolism, physical growth, and regulate body temperature. It also orchestrates the regulation of other hormones in the body. If abnormal cells grow in this gland, thyroid cancer can develop. Though any cancer diagnosis is frightening, thyroid cancer has a five-year survival rate of 98%. Seeking medical attention for early symptoms is the best way to have a positive prognosis.
Even though symptoms are often absent in the earliest stages of thyroid cancer, a lump or nodule in the neck is one of the initial signs. Not all nodules are cancerous. Doctors will closely examine those that are solitary, grow rapidly, and are hard, painless, and do not easily move with routine palpation. If a doctor discovers swelling or a lump, he or she may order a biopsy. If the test results are inconclusive, the patient may require further tests.
People with thyroid cancer may notice swollen lymph nodes. Without the presence of other ear, nose, or throat symptoms, this can be indicative of thyroid cancer. Your doctor will often discover this swelling during a routine check-up. Any persistent swelling around the neck area is a good reason to make a doctor’s appointment.
Even without a lump or swelling, people with thyroid cancer sometimes experience pain in the neck. Thyroid cancer is a rare cause of this pain and discomfort, however. Anyone who experiences neck pain that does not resolve within a week should have a doctor investigate.
Dysphagia is difficulty swallowing. The symptom can cause pain or discomfort and, though dysphagia can be caused by many issues, it can be a sign of cancer quickly progressing. The growing tumor can compress the esophagus. People with dysphagia should seek medical attention immediately.
Thyroid tumors may develop near the trachea or windpipe, causing labored breathing. Although this type of tumor is rare, it can cause extreme discomfort or pain. Any person with trouble breathing should discuss their concern with a doctor. Many serious issues present with trouble breathing.
The majority of thyroid cancer symptoms relate to the neck area. Wheezing is one such symptom, occurring when constricted airways prevent air from freely passing through. Tumors put pressure on the airways and can result in a constant wheeze.
When a lump or nodule in the thyroid presses against the voice box, it may cause mild to severe vocal changes. Locally advanced tumors can paralyze the vocal cords. If left untreated, thyroid cancer can spread to the laryngeal nerve, lungs, and bone.
People with thyroid cancer can develop a lingering cough. Some people initially mistake this symptom for a respiratory infection, but the cough will generally outlast other symptoms of a cold if thyroid cancer is the cause. If a cough lasts longer than two weeks, see a doctor.
Some viruses may have a link to thyroid cancer, including hepatitis C and Epstein-Barr. Scientists found this association, but more research is needed to consider these infections as triggers. This risk of developing cancer in relation to these infections seem to be higher in children than in adults. Thyroid cancer is one of the most most common cancer affecting children. Parents of children who have contracted these viruses should be aware of thyroid symptoms.
Some studies show a link between hyperthyroidism caused by Graves' disease and thyroid cancer. People with Graves' disease are at higher risk for thyroid cancer. Overproduction of thyroid hormones in Graves' disease leads to weight loss, difficulty sleeping, and rapid heart rate. People with hyperthyroidism or Graves’ disease should undergo cancer screenings more often than those without these conditions.
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