The first signs of thyroid cancer may be a nodule or enlarged lymph nodes; however there are many other symptoms that alert one to the fact of this type of cancer. A malignant thyroid neoplasm (abnormal mass, tissue or tumor) is known as thyroid cancer.
Before looking at the signs of thyroid cancer in detail, let us look at some other facts relating to the cancer.
Types of thyroid cancer
This kind of cancer may be subdivided into papillary thyroid cancer (majority of cases have this type), follicular thyroid cancer, medullary thyroid cancer, anaplastic thyroid cancer and others such as lymphoma and squamous cell carcinoma and sarcoma.
Risk factors of thyroid cancer
Risk factors are important to know so that one knows to look out for signs of thyroid cancer if one seems to have a higher propensity of the disease.
Age is a risk factor; with this cancer being more common among people over the age of 30. Females are twice as likely as men to have thyroid cancer.
Family history of this cancer and those who have been exposed to radiation are also likelier to have this cancer. Race is also a risk factor, with more Caucasians developing this disease than others.
Early and late signs of thyroid cancer
In the earlier stages of the disease it is often asymptomatic and the sufferer may have no inkling about its existence. When the symptoms do emerge they usually are-
Nodules in the thyroid gland
Nodules in the thyroid gland, which is located in the neck region is usually the first sign of this disease. However it is important to remember that nodules are quite common (between 4 and 7% of people may have them) and that only about 1 to 5% of these nodules are malignant. Such a nodule may be able to be felt in the neck.
Changes that the nodules may cause
There could be changes in the person’s voice with the sound of the voice becoming gruffer or hoarser. There could be visibly swollen lymph nodes in the neck. There could also be pain and swelling in the neck region and the person may also have difficulty swallowing.
A person can take the thyroid neck test to find out if there is anything wrong – face a mirror and tip the head back, then swallow some water. If there is any protrusion or lump visible when swallowing, (other than the Adam’s apple which is higher; the thyroid gland is lower down and closer to the collar bones) consult a doctor.
Non specific signs of thyroid problems
These relate to thyroid imbalance and aren’t signs of thyroid cancer. Women in particularly may have menstrual changes, infertility and so on as a result of this condition. Many may notice hair changes such as hair loss and skin changes such as coarsening or scaling of skin. There could be various aches and pains that manifest in the muscles, joints and so on. Thyroid problems could also cause carpal tunnel problems in the arms and tarsal tunnel problems in the legs.
Signs of thyroid cancer may be present but a definitive diagnosis of the disease can only be made by doing a biopsy (extracting tumor tissue and examining it).