Thyroid cancer infects the cells of the thyroid gland. It occurs in the cells of the thyroid – a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of your neck, just below your Adam’s apple. Hormones produced in the thyroid gland are what regulate heart rate and blood pressure. These hormones are also responsible for regulating the body’s weight and temperature.
Thyroid cancer isn’t that prevalent within the United States. On average, over 35,000 people are diagnosed yearly with thyroid cancer. It seems thyroid cancer rates are increasing each year. Some doctors feel this is because of recent advancements in medical science. Newer technology has made it possible to find small thyroid cancers that may have been overlooked years earlier. Early detection has made it possible for physicians to administer timely treatment.
In the beginning stages, thyroid cancer does not display any physical signs. Once thyroid cancer approaches the later stages, it can manifest itself as the following:
- throat and neck pain
- hoarseness in the voice
- experiencing difficulty in swallowing
- swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck
- a lump that can be felt on the skin of neck area
When To Visit Your Physician
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, it would be a good idea to make an appointment with your doctor. Thyroid cancer is not so common. Your physician will look into other causes or possibilities for the symptoms you are experiencing and rule those out first. Some of these symptoms could be indications of other medical issues not related to your thyroid.
There is no clear-cut explanation of why thyroid cancer occurs. We know it happens in the cells of your thyroid when they genetic changes or mutations occur. The genetic changes make it possible for the cells of the thyroid gland to grow and increase rapidly. Normal thyroid cells eventually die. In the case of thyroid cancer, the mutation that occurs in those cells lose the ability to die as normal cells usually do. The mutated cells accumulate and become a tumor. This is how it starts and these mutated cells can infect the nearby healthy tissue and spread throughout the body.
The Doctor’s Appointment
If you believe you have thyroid cancer, the first would be to see your family doctor or general physician. If your doctor, after preliminary testing, shares your concerns, you may be referred to an endocrinologist or to a specialist in the area of thyroid cancer.
Make sure you are well prepared for your physician’s appointment. There is usually much to cover and tests to be run in the goal of getting an accurate prognosis. There are some specific things to consider when preparing for your doctor’s appointment.
Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. When you make your appointment, find out if there is anything that you will need in advance. There may also be some dietary restriction that needs to be observed before arriving at your appointment.
Write down any and all symptoms you’re experiencing. You should include any that appear to be unrelated to the reason for which your appointment was scheduled.
Write down important personal information. This can include any major stresses or difficulties in life. This can also encompass any life changes you might have undergone.
Compile a list of all current medications. This would include any vitamins or supplements.
Take someone along with you. If possible, let a family member or friend accompany you on your appointment. Because of the care for your well-being, having a family member or friend with you might help you to remember details or something you would have otherwise forgotten or missed.
Write down questions to ask your doctor. Since the appointment can be brief, having a prepared list of questions will help you make the most of the limited time you have with your physician. You should prioritize them from the most important to least important. That way if there is insufficient time to cover everything, you would at least have covered the most important issues first. Some of those questions might be:
- Which type of thyroid cancer do I have?
- What is the stage of my thyroid cancer?
- What treatments are recommended?
- Are there risks to each treatment?
- Will I be able to function normally during my thyroid cancer treatment?
- Should I get a second opinion?
- Should I see an endocrinologist? What is the cost? Am I covered by my insurance?
- How much time do I have to decide on a treatment?
- Is there any printed material that I can read or websites I can visit?