Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month is observed in September each year. This month-long observance is dedicated to raising awareness about thyroid cancer, educating the public about the disease, its risk factors, and the importance of early detection and treatment.
During Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month, UHAPO Health Services work together to promote awareness through events, campaigns, and educational initiatives for early detection.
Awareness of symptoms plays a crucial role in the early detection and diagnosis of thyroid cancer. Individuals should be aware of the common signs and symptoms associated with thyroid cancer, as early detection often leads to better treatment outcomes. Here are some of the key symptoms of thyroid cancer to be aware of –
- Lump or Nodule in the Neck
- Changes in the Voice
- Difficulty Swallowing or Breathing
- Neck Pain or Discomfort
- Swollen Lymph Nodes
- Persistent Cough
- Throat or Neck Pressure
- Unexplained Weight Loss
Causes and Risk Factors
Thyroid cancer like many other cancers, can result from a complex interplay of genetic and environmental factors. While the exact causes of thyroid cancer are not always clear, several risk factors have been identified that may increase an individual’s likelihood of developing thyroid cancer. Here are some of the known causes and risk factors for thyroid cancer –
- Gender – Thyroid cancer is more common in women than in men. Women are approximately three times more likely to develop thyroid cancer.
- Age – the risk of thyroid cancer increases with age, with the highest incidence in people between the ages of 30 and 60.
- Family History – A family history of thyroid cancer or certain hereditary conditions such as familial medullary thyroid cancer or multiple endocrine neoplasia, can increase the risk.
- Radiation Exposure – Exposure to ionizing radiation due to medical treatments or environmental sources can increase the risk.
- Genetic conditions – Specific genetic mutations such as mutations in the RET gene or the BRAF gene can increase the risk of thyroid cancer.
- Thyroid Nodules – The presence of thyroid nodules (abnormal growths or lumps within the thyroid gland) increases the risk of thyroid cancer, although most nodules are non-cancerous (benign).
- Obesity – There is some evidence to suggest that obesity may be associated with an increased risk of thyroid cancer, particularly in women.
Having one or more risk factors does not mean that a person will develop thyroid cancer. Regular check-ups with a healthcare provider and early detection through screenings are essential for individuals at higher risk or those who are experiencing symptoms.
Early detection and diagnosis
Early detection can help save lives! For that thyroid cancer need to be detected in its early stages. Therefore, recommend getting regular checkups and having awareness on potential risk factors can help in early detection of the disease. Here are some of the steps and methods used for early detection and diagnosis of thyroid cancer –
- Clinical Examination – During routine physical exams, a healthcare provider may perform a thorough neck examination to check for any unusual lumps or nodules in the thyroid gland.
- Medical history – Your healthcare provider will ask about your personal and family medical history, including any history of thyroid problems, radiation exposure, or genetic conditions that may increase the risk of thyroid cancer.
- Thyroid Function Tests – Blood tests, such as thyroid function tests (TFTs), can help assess the functioning of the thyroid gland.
- Neck Ultrasound – Ultrasound imaging can determine the size, location, and characteristics of the abnormal thyroid nodule.
- Fine-Needle Aspiration (FNA) Biopsy – If the ultrasound reveals a suspicious nodule, a fine-needle aspiration biopsy may be performed to extract a small tissue sample from the nodule. The sample is then examined under a microscope to determine if cancerous cells are present.
- Molecular Testing – Molecular tests, such as gene mutation analysis, may be performed on the biopsy sample to help determine the type of thyroid cancer.
- Computed Tomography (CT) or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – to evaluate the extent of the cancer and check for any signs of cancer spreading to nearby structures or lymph nodes.
- Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scan – PET scans can help determine if thyroid cancer has spread to other parts of the body such as distant lymph nodes or organs.
The prevention of thyroid cancer primarily involves reducing risk factors and making healthy lifestyle choices. While some risk factors, such as genetics and age, cannot be controlled, there are steps you can take to potentially reduce your risk of thyroid cancer –
- Avoid Excessive Radiation Exposure
- Maintain a Balanced Diet
- Protect Your Neck from Radiation
- Regular Physical Activity
- Limit Alcohol Consumption
- Tobacco Avoidance
- Regular Check-ups and Screenings
- Thyroid Health Awareness
- Manage Stress
- Genetic Counseling
If you have specific concerns about your risk of thyroid cancer, discuss them with your healthcare provider.
In India, there are several support and resources available for individuals diagnosed with thyroid cancer and their families. Here are some organizations, hospitals, and resources that can provide assistance, information, and support –
- Cancer Patients Aid Association (CPAA) – CPAA has multiple branches across India and offers support services, including counseling, patient education, and financial aid.
- Cancer Helpline (CanHelp) – CanHelp is an initiative by the Indian Cancer Society that provides counseling, information, and support for cancer patients and their families.
- Tata Memorial Centre (TMC) – Located in Mumbai, TMC is one of India’s premier cancer treatment and research centers, offering comprehensive care for thyroid cancer patients.
- All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) – AIIMS in New Delhi is another renowned institution providing cancer treatment and researching thyroid cancer.
- Cancer Patients Aid Association (CPAA) – CPAA’s website provides information about thyroid cancer and various support services.
- Cancer Awakens – This organization offers online resources and support for cancer patients and their caregivers.
It is advisable to consult with your healthcare provider and contact local resources and support groups to ensure you receive the most relevant and up-to-date information and assistance tailored to your specific needs and location in Mumbai.