ABOUT Thyroid Cancer - Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatments
Thyroid Cancer What Women Should Know
Thyroid cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the thyroid gland (a small gland at the front of your neck). It's rare for women to be diagnosed with thyroid cancer, but it does happen.
Thyroid cancer affects one woman in 80 per year in the United States, and it's usually not deadly because it's caught early enough.
Women with thyroid cancer have a slightly better prognosis than men, but we still need to look out for symptoms. One of the first signs that you should be worried about is if you notice any of these changes in your body:
Thyroid Cancer Symptoms
If you've been living with thyroid cancer symptoms for a little while, they might seem normal at first. Here are some things to watch out for:
Fatigue and Weakness
Thyroid cancer can cause feelings of fatigue (sometimes called "the tiredness" or "the blahs") or weakness. There are some helpful treatments available that can help combat these two problems, but they don't always work.
Many early signs of thyroid cancer have to do with your throat (as it contains the thyroid). You may notice that you are losing some of your voice, or that it becomes hoarse and strained. Your voice may get louder for no reason or feel more scratchy. These are all signals that the cells in your thyroid are becoming cancerous.
Another sign to keep an eye out for is a sore throat, as this can be a symptom of thyroid cancer as well. A sore throat can mean that there is something wrong with the vocal cords, and this may be an early sign of thyroid cancer.
Warmth on Your Neck
You may notice a warm feeling on or around your neck, as though you are being hugged. This may be because of the nodules that are forming in your thyroid. The best treatment for early symptoms of thyroid cancer is to get checked out and have a biopsy (where we remove a small piece of the tumor to look at it under a microscope). This can be done with an outpatient procedure that doesn't require you to stay overnight in the hospital. If you've been living with any of these problems for more than 2 weeks, you must call your doctor and get yourself checked out.
The most common treatment for thyroid cancer is surgery. The surgeon removes the lump or nodule and then accesses the area around it to look for cancer cells. This is called a biopsy. If there are thyroid cancer cells in the area around the tumour, they will be removed by surgery or maybe destroyed with radiation therapy that is given after surgery.
After thyroid cancer has been treated, your doctor will want to follow up with you every 3 months to make sure that cancer hasn't come back (also called recurrence) and that you continue to have good health. People who have had a total thyroidectomy (where the entire thyroid gland is removed) usually need a thyroid hormone replacement medication (thyroid hormone replacement medication).
Diagnosing Thyroid Cancer
The doctor will ask you about any symptoms you've been experiencing, and they will take a very careful medical history of everything. This is because many different things can cause the many symptoms of thyroid cancer.
What does a Thyroid Ultrasound sound like?
A thyroid ultrasound looks at the lumps or nodules in the thyroid gland and checks if they are cancerous or precancerous. This also looks for any other problems that might be affecting your body (such as an enlarged thyroid), as well as various areas of your body that may be holding on to fluids such as a cyst or lump (such as a lymph node).
How does a Thyroid Ultrasound Work?
A thyroid ultrasound is a very small, painless procedure that uses sound waves. You lie on a stretcher and the ultrasound wand (like an oversized Q-tip) is carefully placed on your neck. The sound waves are used to take pictures of the lumps, nodules, or cysts in your thyroid gland.
This procedure can show many signs of what's going on with your thyroid gland:
Fuzzy images may show if there are problems with blood vessels or lymph vessels in the neck area as well as cancerous glands growing into them. If you aren't familiar with these terms, the doctor will tell you more about them during the exam.
Working on Recovery
A thyroid ultrasound is not an uncomfortable procedure. The machine used is very gentle and most people can return to normal activity immediately after the exam. The images are shown on a monitor in front of you so that you can see them and ask questions if you like.
Frequently Asked Questions on Thyroid Cancer
How long does a thyroid ultrasound take?
A thyroid ultrasound usually takes about 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the person. This part of the appointment will all be done while you are in the chair, so there's no waiting time when you get back home.
How much does a thyroid ultrasound cost?
You don't have to pay for this test as part of your insurance plan or any other health insurance plan.