The thyroid gland is a significant part of the human body’s endocrine system that helps regulate the body hormones. It is located below the larynx, in front of the neck and it’s most important function lies in absorbing iodine from the blood to produce thyroid hormones, which is necessary for regulating your body metabolism.Thyroid cancer starts in this gland and unfortunately doesn’t have any specific symptoms. This is the main reason why it usually goes undetected till the last minute. Some of the symptoms are the same symptoms which may occur when you suffer from a common cold, and some symptoms may also be caused by benign thyroid nodules or thyroid tumors.
Thyroid cancer is, however, a rare form of cancer, and constitutes less than 1% of cancer cases in men and women in the United States. In fact, it is more common for people to suffer from some non-cancerous thyroid diseases like Graves’ disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and Goiter.
Thyroid cancer seems to exist more in people who have been exposed to high radiation doses and who have inherited the gene.
There are altogether four different forms of thyroid cancer, and they are follicular, papillary, anaplastic and medullary thyroid cancers. Whichever form of thyroid cancer it may seem, these are the main thyroid cancer signs that people should not ignore. The main reason these symptoms should not be ignored is that the cancer is treatable, as long as it is detected at the right time.
As the thyroid gland is located under the larynx or voice box, there is a chance of cancerous thyroid nodules pressing against the voice box. This can lead to some voice changes and a consequent hoarse voice. Though this is a sign of thyroid cancer, it is rarely used for detecting it.
While most thyroid nodules do not grow big enough to create a noticeable lump, some people may notice it. Some lumps can be seen in front of the neck, near Adam’s apple, some of the lumps can be felt, and other lumps may be noticed while swallowing. However, it is, in fact, common for most people to have a neck lump as it may be triggered by other, less serious conditions like goiter or an enlarged thyroid. It is usually 1 in 20 neck lumps that end up cancerous.
There is higher chance of the lump being cancerous if its firm to the touch, seems to be growing bigger with time and cannot be moved around easily under the skin. While it is when you look at the mirror, button your collar or fasten a necklace that you are most likely to notice the lump, your doctor is the best person to detect a thyroid lump and potential thyroid cancer. They can make a diagnosis jut by feeling and examining your thyroid.
Finding it difficult to breathe or swallow
As the thyroid is located upon the trachea or your windpipe, thyroid cancer can place some pressure on the trachea. This can make breathing difficult where you may also experience constant wheezing. Besides, as your esophagus is under the trachea, there is also a chance of a developing thyroid cancer causing trouble while swallowing. This is another rare means of detecting cancer.
Swollen lymph node
Swollen lymph nodes are a symptom of thyroid cancer that’s unrelated to thyroid nodules. There is a chance of thyroid cancer spreading to your lymph nodes, which are found throughout your body and works at fighting infections.
It is normal for the lymph nodes in your neck to swell when you have a cold or a sore throat, which in turn returns to the normal size once the infection is gone. It is when your lymph nodes remain swollen for a longer time, that too when you are healthy and not having a cold, then it’s better consulting your doctor.
If you have neck pain, it’s usually because something’s wrong with your body anatomy. So if your pain lasts for more than a few weeks, it’s better visiting you doctor to find out its cause. While it is a rare sign of thyroid cancer, if it exists with some of the above-mentioned symptoms, then your doctor should be informed about it.
Similarly, if you have a nagging pain in your throat which just does not seem to stop, then it is a possible thyroid cancer sign and has to be shown to your doctor.
Diarrheal or flushing in the face
There are rare cases where thyroid cancer can stimulate the production of thyroid hormones. If this happens, there is a chance of suffering from diarrhea or flushing.
While a bowel infection caused by a virus, bacteria or parasites may also trigger diarrhea, and strong emotions like stress or embarrassment can make your face go red or flush, it’s better to consult your GP only if you have persistent diarrhea or flushing.
So you can see that the symptoms mentioned above are mainly associated with all types of thyroid nodules, both cancerous and benign nodules. As thyroid cancer develops from these nodules, you need to know all about these signs that lead to possible thyroid cancer. However, you should also know that 95% of all thyroid nodules are benign and that it’s normal for most adults to have one or a few thyroid nodules.
Unfortunately, it’s not easy detecting thyroid cancer symptoms as most of the time, the symptoms that are noticed or detected are not triggered by cancer. This is why thyroid cancer is usually diagnosed during a routine examination or is unintentionally detected while taking x-rays or undergoing a scan for some other reason.
However just to be on the safe side, it’s always better to consult your doctor if you notice these lingering signs and symptoms. There are some cases of people who have thyroid cancer, without any symptoms. In such circumstances, it’s usually the doctor who notices the lump while performing a routine examination of the neck.