This is not a very common type of cancer but when it does occur it creeps up unnoticed mostly until advanced stages.
If your metabolism is too slow or too fast, you have your thyroid gland to blame. The thyroid is a gland that regulates a lot of the body's processes, your metabolism being the primary one. It's a small butterfly-shaped gland found at the lower part of your throat. It is part of the endocrine system and regulates your heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and weight.
If the gland is not making enough hormones, a condition called hypothyroidism, then the body processes slow down. On the other hand, if it makes too much, a condition known as hyperthyroidism, then it speeds up all the bodily functions. You could experience a racing heart, diarrhea, and severe weight loss.
When the cells of the thyroid gland get mutated, they could turn cancerous. According to Mayo Clinic, thyroid cancer is not common in the United States but the rate is increasing. New technology is allowing detection of small thyroid cancers that were earlier not detectable, according to experts. It affects more women than men, according to cancer.org. Good news is that people diagnosed with thyroid cancer have a 90% survival rate.
The symptoms of thyroid cancer are not apparent right from the beginning since very few show up right at the onset of the disease. However, they grow as the cancer progresses. Here are some symptoms of thyroid cancer you need to keep an eye out for:
There are lymph nodes in the neck, groin, under the chin, and armpits too. There can be multiple reasons for swelling in the lymph nodes like colds, flu, sinus infections, strep throat, skin wounds, and mononucleosis. Swollen lymph nodes can also indicate rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.
“The most common cause of lymph node swelling is an upper respiratory infection, which can take 10 to 14 days to resolve completely,” says Dr. Amber Tully of Cleveland Clinic, “As you start feeling better, the swelling should go down as well.” However, if there's swelling for no obvious reason it can indicate towards cancer of the lymphatic system or lymphoma. “So if you have a large, swollen area but you’re not feeling sick and you didn’t recently have a cold, flu, upper respiratory infection or skin infection, we’ll do further tests,” she notes.
Since your thyroid gland is right above the larynx or the voice box, a thyroid nodule could press against the larynx. The pressure on the voice box can lead to hoarseness or voice changes. However, this is not a common way for the detection of thyroid cancer, according to Endocrineweb.com.
The thyroid nodules could also put pressure on your windpipe or trachea making it harder to breathe. Since the esophagus is right below the trachea it could lead to difficulty in swallowing as well. This too is not the usual way to detect thyroid cancer.
If you feel pain in your neck or throat for longer than a few weeks, it's a good idea to ask your doctor what's causing it. Pain in the neck rarely happens in thyroid cancer. However, when you see other symptoms co-occur, mention them to your doctor.
You could get a bark-like cough. However, if the cough occurs along with other symptoms like fever, sore throat, of common cold you could be misled. A persistent cough can be an indicator of a tumor.
“A persistent cough can be due to a thyroid mass pressing on the trachea or the windpipe,” Dr. Tom Thomas, director of head and neck reconstructive surgery and transoral robotic surgery at Morristown Medical Center, tells Cosmopolitan.
This is the most obvious symptom but it is only detectable if in the front part of the thyroid. “There shouldn’t be any visible or palpable lumps in the neck, so if you feel a lump, see your physician," Dr. Thomas says. He described the lumps to be smooth and rubbery to touch. However, if they feel hard, you should visit the doctor.