Thyroid Cancer Symptoms Other Problems

Thyroid cancer is a serious disease, but it’s important to remember that not everything that goes wrong with the thyroid is a symptom of cancer. Familiarity with the symptoms of thyroid problems can help you monitor your health more effectively.

Through production of thyroid hormones, the thyroid affects almost every function of the body, and the rate at which those processes take place. Not surprisingly, when thyroid problems develop, the body’s metabolism will show changes.

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid, is one of the most common thyroid conditions. It occurs when the thyroid doesn’t produce sufficient hormones to keep the body functioning at its normal pace, slowing down the body’s activities.

While there are many causes of hypothyroidism, one of the most common thyroid problems in the United States is “Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.” Women are seven times more likely than men to have this hereditary condition, which prompts the body’s immune system to go after thyroid cells. But whether an underactive thyroid is a result of this disease or some other source, the symptoms are the same, and may include:

  • Depression
  • Dry skin and hair, possible hair loss
  • Fatigue
  • Menstrual irregularity
  • Muscle aches
  • Problems with concentration
  • Problems sleeping
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Tendency to put on weight.

Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism, or an overactive thyroid, presents a host of other thyroid problems at the opposite end of the metabolic spectrum.

Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disease that tends to run in families and is most common among young women, is the most commonly diagnosed cause of hyperthyroidism. Thyroid nodules, which can grow and increase their activity to the point where the thyroid is pumping out excessive levels of thyroid hormones, are another cause of an overactive thyroid. The symptoms of an overactive thyroid can include:

  • Irritability
  • Light menstrual flow
  • Losing weight
  • Muscular weakness
  • Nervousness
  • Racing heart
  • Shakiness
  • Sweating
  • Thinning of the skin and hair.

Nodules

Nodules are one of the more common types of thyroid problems. Although they are most often benign, they should be taken seriously because they could be symptoms of cancer. Thyroid nodules are often discovered almost accidentally, when patients are being examined for some other reason. Nodules can result from:

  • An excessive growth of thyroid cells
  • Fluid-filled cysts
  • Inflammation
  • Tumors, either benign or cancerous.

A patient may develop one or several nodules, but having several nodules does not necessarily indicate a more serious problem like cancer. Generally, however, a larger nodule is more likely to be malignant.

Resources

American Thyroid Association staff. (2005). What is hyperthyroidism? Retrieved March 16, 2010, from the American Thyroid Association Web site: http://www.thyroid.org/patients/brochures/Hyper_brochure.pdf.

American Thyroid Association staff. (2003). ATA Hypothyroidism Booklet. Retrieved March 16, 2010, from the American Thyroid Association Web site: http://www.thyroid.org/patients/brochures/Hypothyroidism _web_booklet.pdf.

Drucker, D. (2009) Graves’ disease. Retrieved March 16, 2010, from the MyThyroid.com Web site: http://www.mythyroid.com/thyroidnodules.html.

Power of Prevention staff. (2007). What is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis? Retrieved March 16, 2010, from the Power of Prevention Web site: http://www.thyroidawareness.com/hashimotos.php.