Cancer is one of the main causes of death worldwide. Despite all the knowledge and technological advances, there are still people who are unable to fight it.
The number of people diagnosed with thyroid cancer has been on the rise since 1970, but there are four useful signs to identify it early on that everyone should be familiar with.
According to Ilya Likhterov, an assistant professor of Otolaryngology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, these four signs are clear and can definitely save lives.
Noticeable lump in the neck
A lump in the neck that doesn't go away in a few weeks should be checked out by a doctor. This lump, if found on the side of the neck, means that if it is cancer, it has reached the lymph nodes.
If the mass is in the front, however, then it means that the cancer is in the thyroid gland.
This action is important for getting food and drink into the body, and difficulty swallowing could indicate that a mass is blocking the esophagus.
The lump is then growing inward as well, and constricting the pipe that needs to transport food down to the stomach. The discomfort will be different to that of a sore throat accompanying a cold.
A change in voice tone
Every person hears their voice in a different tone to that which others do, but sudden changes in the vibration of the vocal chords will definitely be noticeable.
If anything affects the thyroid gland, it will affect the way the voice sounds, so keep an eye out for those changes.
Trouble speaking or breathing properly
Talking or drawing breath accompanied by discomfort could indicate the thyroid might not be functioning correctly.
This is usually because of some sort of pressure, which could be derived from a mass created by cancerous cells. Be mindful that this sympton, if related to cancer, could indicate the disease is at an advanced stage already.
These will be different for each individual, and will depend heavily on the size and stage of the tumor. According to Likhterov, if a tumor is smaller than one centimeter, it can be left alone, as it will not cause any problems.
These masses are usually slow growers, so doctors might just order an ultrasound every six months.
If the tumor is larger, it will require surgery. The thyroid might not have to be entirely removed, but if it does, thyroid hormones will need to be taken on a permanent basis.
There is also the possibility that it can harm the parathyroid gland, which is responsible for controlling the balance of calcium within the body. In more severe cases, chemotherapy or aggressive medication may be required.