What Are the Symptoms of Thyroid Cancer?
The American Cancer Society reports about 43,800 cases of thyroid cancer every year. In fact, until recently, thyroid cancer was becoming one of the most common types of cancers in the U.S. So, what are the symptoms of thyroid cancer?
In this article, we are going to examine what thyroid cancer is, the top signs of thyroid cancer and more. Let’s take a look.
What is Thyroid Cancer?
Your thyroid is a gland at the base of the neck, responsible for regulating blood pressure, temperature, heart rate and body weight. Thyroid cancer happens when cells in the thyroid multiply. As this mass grows, you may experience pain and swelling in the neck, as well as disruptions to thyroid function.
There are also various types of thyroid cancer, depending on the thyroid cells the cancer impacts. Some common types of thyroid cancer include papillary thyroid cancer, follicular thyroid cancer, anaplastic thyroid cancer and medullary thyroid cancer.
Interestingly, thyroid cancer tends to occur more often in females than males. You also have a higher risk if you have had any radiation exposure or have an inherited gene mutation related to this type of cancer.
The Top 6 Signs of Thyroid Cancer
Up to 30% of thyroid cancer patients experience a recurring cancerous episode. Thus, it pays to know the signs and get regular screenings and check-ups. Here’s what you want to watch out for when it comes to thyroid cancer.
1. Lump in Neck
Usually, thyroid cancer begins as a painless lump in the neck. This lump usually feels like a swollen area on the lower portion of the front of the neck. While this is a sign of thyroid cancer, it can also indicate an enlarged thyroid, with only 1 in every 20 neck lumps actually being diagnosed as thyroid cancer.
If a neck lump is cancerous, it typically feels firm to touch, unmovable and gradually gets bigger as time goes on.
If you notice any lump in your neck, it is crucial to get it checked out as soon as you can. Even an enlarged thyroid can cause various health issues and life disruptions.
2. Voice Changes
Many people with thyroid cancer experience hoarseness in their voice. While typical with colds and throat infections, this hoarseness does not go away. Thus, if you have a hoarse voice that lasts longer than a couple of weeks, it is definitely a good idea to get it checked out by your doctor.
On top of this hoarseness, you might also have a persistently sore throat that also does not go away with time. This is another sign that you should book a doctor’s visit, just to be on the safe side.
3. Neck Pain
Eventually, the lump in your neck may begin to cause pain as it places stress on surrounding structures and tissues. Similar to where the lump arises from, usually this pain starts in the front of the neck. In some cases, this pain may extend up toward the ears and vary in severity, depending on the stage of thyroid cancer you have.
4. Breathing Issues
Difficulty breathing is another common symptom of thyroid cancer. This may happen due to airways becoming slightly blocked due to the cancerous growth. Some thyroid cancer patients describe this sensation as though they are breathing in through a small straw.
Either way, breathing issues are a serious problem. Whether it is thyroid cancer or another health issue causing this symptom, any breathing difficulties should get checked out by your doctor or a specialist.
5. Difficulty Swallowing
Many thyroid cancer patients notice that breathing issues and trouble swallowing go hand-in-hand. This is not surprising since when the cancerous growth gets to a certain size, it would block both the esophagus and breathing pathways.
6. Continuous Cough
In some cases, patients may develop a cough. This often feels like you have a lump in your throat that you cannot quite get rid of. By this time, a noticeable lump is often evident. However, if you have a cough that lasts longer than a week or two, we recommend booking a visit with your doctor to get to the bottom of it.
Don’t Wait to Get Your Symptoms Checked Out
As soon as you notice any changes or symptoms, get it checked out. The longer you wait, the more serious and life-threatening your condition can become.
From there, your doctor and specialists can make a proper diagnosis and get you the treatment you need. When caught early enough, treatment often involves surgery to remove part of the thyroid, radiotherapy, or chemotherapy. Sometimes, a combination of treatments is used to effectively remove the cancerous tissue.
Once you are cleared of cancer, as previously mentioned, regular check-ups are important to ensure it does not return. This may involve regular blood testing and imaging exams.