In the earliest stages of thyroid cancer, symptoms will often not be obvious. Additionally, this type of cancer is usually very slow growing, so it may take a while before the symptoms manifest themselves. The cause of thyroid cancer is usually unknown, but certain risk factors have been identified and include a family history of goitre, exposure to high levels of radiation, and certain hereditary syndromes.
The National Cancer Institute recommends that anyone who received radiation to the head or neck in childhood be examined by a doctor every one to two years to detect potential thyroid cancer.
Thyroid cancer symptoms
Some of the most common symptoms experienced by those with thyroid cancer include the following:
- A nodule or lump will appear in the neck, particularly in the front of the neck (near the Adam’s apple for men)
- The neck may enlarge in size
- The lymph nodes may grow in size
- Voice change or hoarseness. It may become hoarser, or they may have difficulty speaking in a normal voice
- Difficulty with breathing or eating and drinking
- A choking sensation
- Pain in the neck, throat and ears is often reported
- A chronic cough may develop that is not directly related to a cold
- On rare occasions, the symptoms of aggressive thyroid cancer may cause neurological problems.
Thyroid cancer symptoms will vary from person to person, so the cancer may present differently from person to person. There are also a number of factors that can affect how at risk a person is for developing this disease. Exposure to radiation can also cause thyroid cancer to develop. The radiation from an occasional X ray won’t cause the cancer to develop, but if a young adult or child was exposed to radiation in the neck region as a form of medical treatment, then he or she will be at an increased risk for developing this type of disease. Exposure to radiation from radioactive fallout can also cause the cancer to develop.
In most Western countries, women are 2-3 times more likely to develop thyroid cancer. When a person knows what thyroid cancer symptoms to be on the lookout for, he or she will be better equipped to be on their guard. The good news is that this type of cancer is relatively straightforward to treat and has a low recurrence rate.
The only certain way to tell whether a thyroid lump is cancerous is by examining the thyroid tissue obtained using a needle or surgery for biopsy.
If you have questions or concerns about thyroid problems make an appointment to see our thyroid surgeon.