Thyroid cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the thyroid gland. Cancer starts when cells begin to grow out of control. (To learn more about how cancers start and spread, see What Is Cancer?) The thyroid gland makes hormones that help regulate your metabolism, heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature
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The thyroid is a gland that exists at the base of our necks. We all have one, and you can actually feel your own thyroid if you put your finger just above the little notch at your neck. It’s a dumbbell-shaped structure, not unlike my bowtie. It’s an important structure. It’s a gland. It produces hormones.
And the function of the thyroid, the hormones affect your metabolism of food stuffs, carbohydrate and protein-ingested foods, but also has an effect with multiple other hormones, interacting with them.
It’s a very important structure you can’t live without. It will sometimes overproduce hormone. It’ll under-produce hormone, or the third way it presents as a problem is if it forms a nodule, which sometimes can be a cancer.
Now it’s always frightening when someone detects a lump in their neck, and that’s usually the presentation of thyroid cancer. And if someone’s shaving or looks in the mirror, sees the lump and feels it, and first thought is, is it cancer?
There’s a little trick that we use to try and tell whether a lump in someone’s neck is the thyroid or another structure in the neck. And the trick is to swallow when your finger’s on it.
The thyroid is very far at the back, right against the cartilage of your trachea. So it moves up and down when you swallow. So if you have a lump, you put your finger on it, you swallow, it moves up and down, it’s either part of the thyroid or it originated from the thyroid, as opposed to a lymph node or another structure in the neck.
Thyroid nodules or lumps in the neck are very, very common. Based on decade of life, it’s about 10 percent per decade of the public will have a lump or a nodule in their thyroid, if you do an ultrasound of people.
So by the age of 50, it’s roughly half of the population is going to have a nodule in their neck. And you were to use your fingers and just examine, it’s about one-tenth of that. So it would be around five percent. So very, very common.
Fortunately, the majority of thyroid nodules are not cancerous. It’s a minority. Depending on the particular circumstances of the patient, whether there’s a family history or other risk factors, it’ll be around 5, 10, 15 percent chance that a nodule is actually cancerous. Often seeing a local family physician or a physiotherapist in conjunction with a registered dietitian and athletic therapist is a great option to take control of this condition. Smart Food Now and exercise is also optominal for overall health.
If you have questions about thyroid cancer, or you think you have thyroid cancer, discuss this concern with your primary medical doctor.