Thyroid cancer: Know the symptoms
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Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk is Mr Jean-Pierre Jeannon, a Consultant ENT (Ears, Throat and Nose) Surgeon at London Bridge Hospital (part of HCA UK) and Guy’s & St Thomas’s NHS Hospital. “Patients with thyroid cancer usually have normal thyroid function blood tests,” cautioned Dr Jeannon. Thus, people need to be aware of the physical manifestations of the tumour.
“Thyroid cancer usually presents as a swelling or lump in the front of the neck, next to the ‘Adam’s apple’,” the surgeon revealed.
Usually the slow-growing, “hard and firm” lump “moves up and down” when swallowing, and the movement tends to be painless.
Another indication of thyroid cancer is “swollen glands (or lymph nodes) in the neck”.
Dr Jeannon elaborated: “If the swelling goes away within a couple of weeks, this is usually a sign that your body is fighting infection and is not a cause for concern.
“However, if the swelling continues to grow bigger, feels hard to the touch, and does not go away after two weeks, you should see your GP.”
Further indication of thyroid cancer can include “difficulty swallowing”.
“Often paired with a sore throat, difficulty swallowing can be an unpleasant and debilitating symptom,” said Dr Jeannon.
The expert surgeon mentioned that tonsillitis and/or respiratory infections “are often to blame” for difficulty with swallowing.
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However, “if it persists for more than three weeks and grows worse over time”, he recommends visiting your GP to get it checked out. “It can be a sign of thyroid cancer,” he warned.
Unexplained hoarseness might also be a sign of a growing tumour, but it can also be a sign of a bacterial infection.
“If it is persistent and does not go away after three weeks, seek help from your GP,” instructed Dr Jeannon.
One more possible sign of thyroid cancer is “difficult or noisy breathing”.
“A new onset of difficulty breathing, with an audible wheezy sound, could indicate an obstructed airway from a thyroid cancer,” he explained.
“You should attend year nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department [if this is the case],” Dr Jeannon said.
Five key signs of thyroid cancer
- Swelling or lump in the front of the neck
- Swollen glands in the neck
- Difficulty swallowing
- Unexplained hoarseness
- Difficulty or noisy breathing
Dr Jeannon went on to identify four different types of thyroid cancer:
- Papillary Thyroid Cancer (PTC)
- Follicular Thyroid Cancer (FTC)
- Medullary Thyroid Cancer (MTC)
- Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer (ATC)
Papillary Thyroid Cancer (PTC)
This is the most common type of thyroid cancer, Dr Jeannon explained, and has “the best prognosis”.
“Over 90 percent of patients with this type of cancer survive,” he revealed.
Follicular Thyroid Cancer (FTC)
This type of thyroid cancer is less common; it’s treated in the same way that PTC is addressed – by a “total thyroidectomy surgery followed by radio-iodine therapy for the more advanced cases”.
Medullary Thyroid Cancer (MTC)
MCT “is a rare form often associated with an inherited condition called multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN)”.
To treat MEN, the lymph nodes and the thyroid gland are usually removed during surgery.
Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer (ATC)
ATC is “very rare” and has the “worst prognosis”, usually progressing to fatality.
“Treatment for this rare cancer is palliative chemotherapy,” said Dr Jeannon.
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