The importance of thyroid symptoms you can see
Most thyroid cancer is found by accident – doctors usually find it when patients are getting ultrasounds, CT scans or MRIs for an unrelated reason. The nodules themselves are rarely noticeable, says endocrinologist Dr Michael Tuttle. Patients can usually choose to keep an eye on the cancer and make sure it doesn’t get worse rather than getting treatment right away, he says. “I would ignore asymptomatic, millimetre-sized things that you’d only find if you’re looking for it,” he says. “But any signs or anything you can feel in the neck, that would cross over to something you should no longer ignore.” If you have any of these potential thyroid cancer symptoms, go and see you GP.
Lump in the neck
Men will often find a nodule while shaving, while women might notice one while putting on makeup, says professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic Robert Smallridge. About 90% of thyroid nodules are benign, but if you have a large lump in the front of your neck below the Adam’s apple, pay attention to how it acts. “The trick is [to gauge whether] it moves up and down when you swallow,” Dr Tuttle says. “Most other lumps don’t move.”
The thyroid gland plays a huge part in controlling our heart rate, respiration, major organs and metabolism. Here’s what the thyroid experts want us to know.
The recurrent laryngeal nerve, which controls the muscles that open and close vocal cords, lies right behind the thyroid. In rare cases, a nodule, particularly a cancerous one, can extend beyond the thyroid, damaging that nerve and affecting your voice box, Dr Smallridge says. “Most patients describe it as hoarseness,” he says.
Whether overactive or underactive, your thyroid could be the culprit for a surprising range of symptoms.