September is thyroid cancer awareness month. This month we’ll be sharing information about this cancer as well as the range of support available to help you to live well with cancer.
What and where is the thyroid?
The thyroid is a gland that is at the base of your neck, just behind the small hollow where your collar bones meet.
Thyroid lumps are very common, but only about one in 20 thyroid lumps are cancer. Thyroid cancer is quite rare, but more women than men are diagnosed with it. As with many other cancers, the risk can become slightly higher as you get older.
Here we look at symptoms to look out for, risk factors, getting diagnosed, treatment, and living with cancer.
Symptoms to look out for
The earlier a cancer is picked up, the easier it is to treat, and the more likely the treatment is successful so if you notice any of these symptoms, you might want to see your GP:
- A lump at the base of your neck. Even if you have had this lump checked out before and it gets bigger it’s worthwhile seeing your doctor.
- A hoarse voice that lasts more than three weeks.
- A sore throat or difficulty swallowing that doesn’t get better.
- A lump elsewhere in your neck.
Having one or more of the risk factors does not mean you will develop thyroid cancer. The risk factors for thyroid cancer can include:
- If you have an existing non-cancerous thyroid disease – this can increase your risk of developing thyroid cancer but does not always mean you will develop cancer
- Exposure to radiation – exposure around the neck area may increase risk
- Family history – previous family history of thyroid cancer could be a risk
- Weight – an unhealthy weight can increase the risk of cancer
- Sex – thyroid cancer is more common in females than it is in males
However as with all types of cancer, following a healthy diet and lifestyle can make you less likely to develop cancer.
If you are worried about thyroid cancer, it is advised to see your GP. Once they have checked you and think it could be cancer or are unsure, they may refer you to a specialist who may carry out a blood test, a biopsy, or possibly an ultrasound of your neck. If you are diagnosed with thyroid cancer, they will explain the next steps. There are lots of options and advice available surrounding recent cancer diagnosis to ensure you feel supported.
There are different types of thyroid cancer that may need different treatments. Your treatment could also depend on the stage of your cancer.
Surgery is the treatment most often used for thyroid cancer. You may have part of your thyroid removed, or you may have an operation to remove all of your thyroid. In some cases, further treatment is needed.
Living with cancer
Receiving your diagnosis can be overwhelming. Alongside treatment, you may need additional emotional and psychological support as well as self-care techniques to help you be in the best place possible for your treatment.
Here at Penny Brohn UK, we provide integrative care because we believe that a person with cancer needs to be treated holistically, taking into account your mind, spirit, emotions, and body. Our support includes nutrition, exercise, mindfulness and meditation, complementary therapies, and relaxation techniques. All of our support is available to anyone who is affected by cancer. We now have multiple online sessions so you can access them from wherever you are.