Thyroid Cancer Symptoms

With a 5-year survival rate of almost 97 percent, thyroid cancer is considered one the least deadly forms of cancer, particularly when the most common forms of the disease are caught early. In fact, according to the Light of Life Foundation, the 30-year survival rate for most forms of thyroid cancer is above 90 percent.

The problem is that frequently, there aren’t any symptoms of cancer when thyroid cancer is in its earliest stages.

The most common of the thyroid cancer symptoms is a lump or nodule in the neck, and patients frequently discover these almost by accident, or in the course of a routine check-up. Furthermore, there’s only a 1 percent chance that any nodule you might find is cancerous.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look, or go see your doctor about any lumps you might find. Remember the importance of early detection and treatment.

Checking Your Neck for Symptoms of Cancer

If you’re at high risk for developing thyroid cancer, it’s worth taking a look at your neck regularly.

The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) promotes what they call a “Neck Checkâ„¢” as part of their efforts to address thyroid problems. Here are the key steps:

  1. Start with a handheld mirror and a glass of water.
  2. Look at your lower neck, below your Adam’s apple and above your collarbone. That’s where your thyroid is.
  3. Keeping your eyes on this area, tip your head back and take a drink of water.
  4. Watch for bulges as you swallow.
  5. If you notice any lumps, see a doctor. You may have an enlarged thyroid or a nodule, which could be indicators of thyroid problems or symptoms of thyroid cancer.

Remember that the “Neck Checkâ„¢” is no replacement for a clinical test, and if you’re concerned about potential thyroid cancer symptoms, you should see a healthcare professional.

Additional Symptoms of Thyroid Cancer

The following may also be indicative of thyroid cancer:

  • An asymmetrical thyroid
  • A lingering cough not caused by allergies or sickness
  • Difficulty swallowing or breathing
  • Enlarged lymph nodes in the neck
  • Hoarseness
  • Neck appears swollen
  • Necklaces, ties and clothing cause neck discomfort
  • Pain in the neck, jaw, or ear.

If you notice any of these symptoms, or if you have other concerns about thyroid problems, talk to your doctor. Keep in mind that, even if thyroid cancer is present, blood tests that examine thyroid function can still come back normal.

Early treatment is the best way to tackle any disease. In particular, if you’re at high risk for thyroid cancer, it’s a good idea to know how to monitor your body for the symptoms of cancer.

Resources

American Thyroid Association staff. (2010). Cancer of the thyroid brochure. Retrieved March 16, 2010, from the American Thyroid Association Web site: http://www.thyroid.org/patients/patient_brochures/cancer_of_thyroid.html.

American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) staff. (2009). How to take the thyroid “Neck Checkâ„¢.” Retrieved March 16, 2010, from the AACE Web site: http://www.aace.com/public/awareness/tam/2006/pdfs/NeckCheckCard.pdf.

Light of Life Foundation staff. (2010). Thyroid cancer q