It’s already scary to have trouble breathing, swallowing, or constant pain in your neck. And more often than not, it goes away.
But for some living with thyroid cancer, it’s an everyday reality.
If you have thyroid cancer, or know someone who does, knowing what to expect can help you and your loved one. We gathered information from trusted sources to help you know all you can about thyroid cancer and how to live with it.
Thyroid cancer occurs in the cells of the thyroid - your butterfly-shaped gland in your throat. Because the thyroid regulates heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, weight and metabolism, it’s important to make sure it’s healthy.
Fortunately, there’s good news! Thyroid cancer isn’t common among Americans, and it can even be cured with treatment.
Rates are increasing, but doctors believe it is because new technology allows them to find small thyroid cancers that may not have been found in the past.
Thyroid cancer is linked with a number of conditions but the exact cause of most thyroid cancers is unknown. But, like, other cancers, several risk factors exist that make a person more likely to get the disease.
AGE AND GENDER
For unclear reasons thyroid cancers (like almost all diseases of the thyroid) occur about 3 times more often in women than in men.
For unclear reasons, thyroid cancers occur three times more often in women than men. It can occur at any age, but the risks peak earlier for women (40s or 50s) than men (60s or 70s). (2)
Several inherited conditions have been linked to different types of thyroid cancer. Still, most people who develop thyroid cancer do not have an inherited condition or a family history of the disease. Some possible genetic risk factors include:
Having an immediate family member (parent, brother, sister) with thyroid cancer, even with no hereditary factors, increases your risk of thyroid cancer. The genetic basis is unclear at this time. (3)
More good news! Although these are still harmful, it can be easily avoidable.
A DIET LOW IN IODINE
Follicular thyroid cancers are more common in areas of the world where people’s diets are low in iodine. In the United States, most people get enough iodine in their diet because it is added to table salt and other foods.
Radiation exposure is a proven risk factor for thyroid cancer. Sources of such radiation include certain medical treatments and radiation fallout from power plant accidents or nuclear weapons.
Having had head or neck radiation treatments in childhood is a risk factor for thyroid cancer. Risk depends on how much radiation is given and the age of the child. In general, the risk increases with larger doses and with younger age at treatment. (4)
To begin this section, a thyroid nodule is a lump on the thyroid.
Thyroid nodules are common, and the proportion of nodules that are cancerous is low. It can be fatal or it can be stagnant, depending on the lump.
When you do have a nodule, your doctor will look at the size, growth, and view the nodule via ultrasound to see if investigation is required.
By age 50, approximately 70% of women will have nodules. Up to 95% of these nodules are benign - non-cancerous. Although they won’t be fatal, it is still important to go to your doctor and have them inspected. (5)
Thyroid cancer typically doesn't cause any signs or symptoms early in the disease. As thyroid cancer grows, it may cause:
If you experience any of these signs or symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor. Thyroid cancer isn't common, so your doctor may investigate other causes of your signs and symptoms first. (6)
If you are diagnosed with thyroid cancer, specific treatment will be needed. There are five different kinds of thyroid cancer, each one different from the other. (7)
When there’s a will, there’s a way, and there is one with thyroid cancer. Thankfully, thyroid cancer can be maintained with proper treatment. Below are 5 different ways thyroid cancer can be treated: (8)
You know about thyroid cancer. Now it’s time to raise awareness. The best way to reach this message to others is to start the conversation about thyroid cancer.
You can also go to local thyroid awareness programs and talk to activists there. They should give out awareness materials so you can take home your own tool of exposure.
Post flyers on bulletin boards at your local work or school. This will reach large amounts of people in a short time-frame.
Share your thyroid cancer story with friends, family, a stranger.
Wear or pass out silicone wristbands! Teal, pink, and blue are the colors associated with thyroid cancer. We can help you design wristbands that raise awareness at rapidwristbands.com!
September is Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month. You can do any of these things throughout the year, but during September it will be particularly effective. Add an awareness message to your email signature.
Lastly, donate your time or money to organizations that do research, or raise money to support research.
We hope that this article has been informative and helpful. Thyroid cancer, though mild among Americans, still isn’t to be taken lightly. If you have more questions, contact your doctor or the site references below offer more tools that will help you.