What’s that lump in the neck? If it moves as you swallow, it might be a thyroid nodule and this could be a sign of serious thyroid problems and disease.
The thyroid gland normally produces the thyroid hormone which affects our heart rate, body temperature, and energy level (basal metabolic rate). In addition, special cells within the thyroid gland known as C cells make calcitonin which controls the level of calcium in the blood. Most thyroid nodules (more than 90%) are thankfully benign. Thyroid cancer is, however, the second commonest cancer among young women after breast cancer and is 3 times more common in women than in men. However, because the incidence of thyroid nodules is a lot more common in women, we worry more about cancer when a man develops a thyroid nodule.
We worry more about thyroid cancer when there is a strong family history of thyroid cancer, in elderly women with a fast-growing lump and if there is a previous history of radiation exposure either from radiation treatment or exposure to radiation fallout. That’s why if you have any of these, it is best to visit a thyroid disease clinic in Singapore as soon as possible.
Certain races have a higher incidence and insufficient iodine in our diet has been associated with thyroid cancer. We are also concerned if the patient also has enlarged lymph nodes, lumps which don’t move with swallowing. Rarely, thyroid cancer presents with symptoms of spread like hoarseness, swallowing problems, breathing problems, and throat pain.
The Thyroid Disorders specialist in Singapore will carefully examine your neck to determine if the lump is a lymph node, thyroid nodule, or some other lump. He will usually insert an endoscope through the nose to look for growth if it is a lymph node. With the endoscope, he can also check for the movement of the vocal cords which may be affected with thyroid cancer.
Moreover, the Thyroid Disorders specialist in Singapore may do blood tests to check the thyroid function, thyroid ultrasound scan, and do a fine needle biopsy to exclude cancer. If in doubt, he will recommend thyroid surgery (removing half the gland), which will be performed by a Thyroid surgeon, with a frozen section while the patient is asleep (under anaesthesia) to exclude cancer. He will usually proceed to remove the entire gland if it is proved to be cancerous. Sometimes a neck dissection is carried out to remove lymph nodes
Thankfully thyroid cancer is usually one of the easier to control cancers, especially in young patients. There are lots of thyroid problems and treatment, and the treatment you get will depend on the stage of cancer and other external factors including age and general health. While there are usually 4 stages of cancer, in young patients, there is only stage 1 and 2. Even with distant spread, it is only stage 2, thanks to the availability of radio-iodine, a ‘magic bullet’ which can be used to specifically target the distant spread of cancer. In older patients, there are the usual 4 stages to reflect poorer prognosis with advanced cancer.
Amandela ENT Head & Neck Center Mount Elizabeth Novena
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