The thyroid gland is a vital organ of the endocrine system. It is located in the front of the neck, below the clavicles, and forms a butterfly shape.
This gland is responsible for aiding in the process that develops proteins and digests food, called metabolism. While the risk factors for developing thyroid cancer involve some hereditary conditions, the causes behind most cases are unknown. To treat and prevent thyroid cancer, it is important to be aware of certain symptoms such as a lumps or masses in the neck; difficulty digesting food; pain in the throat, neck, ear or jaw; hoarseness and changes in the voice that do not go away; swollen lymph nodes or inflammation in the neck; and a constant cough that does not develop into a cold.
Héctor Posso, an oncology specialist, answers some of the most common questions about this disease:
- Is any type of lump or nodule in the thyroid a sign of cancer? No. Most thyroid masses are benign in nature. However, the appearance of lumps in the neck or being able to feel lymph nodes is the most common sign of a risk of cancer. An estimated 5% and 15% of these nodules are considered malignant tumors.
- Should you get your thyroid checked even if you do not feel any pain? Yes. Thyroid cancer is one of the most silent and common types of cancers because its symptoms are not painful to patients. Thyroid checkups should be conducted frequently even before the most frequent of symptoms appear such as lumps in the neck, a constant cough or a lack of appetite. With these symptoms present, specialists are the ones who can interpret these findings adequately.
- Does thyroid cancer occur more in women than in men? Yes. Due to their susceptibility for this gland to develop, it is most predominant in women between ages 40 and 60. If it occurs during pregnancy, women usually must wait until after the pregnancy to receive treatment.
Posso recommends people examine their necks periodically to look for and feel any growth or protrusion and be aware of the onset of any warning signs or symptoms.