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During the month of September, Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month is observed throughout the world in order to help educate the public about this condition, which affects the thyroid gland. Located at the base of the throat, this small, butterfly-shaped gland is part of the endocrine system and produces hormones that help regulate the body’s metabolism, blood pressure, heart rate, temperature and weight. When detected in its early stages, thyroid cancer is often very treatable, but some types can be highly aggressive.

Thyroid cancer awareness is important for people of all ages, from young children to senior citizens. That’s because virtually anyone can develop the condition, and more than 62,000 cases are diagnosed each year in the United States alone. Many of these patients will need to take medications daily for the rest of the lives, and also must have periodic testing performed after completing their treatments.

During Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month, the oncology experts at Moffitt Cancer Center urge everyone to:

  • Have a routine “neck check” performed by a healthcare professional – This fast and simple test, which does not require any special equipment, can often find small thyroid nodules (many of which are benign) and help an individual achieve the best possible outcome through early detection and appropriate follow-up.
  • Learn to perform a “neck check” at home – It is also important to perform regular self-exams. Here are the steps: Hold a mirror and, focusing on the lower front area of your neck (above your collar bone and below your voice box), locate the area of your thyroid gland. Tilt your head back slightly, take a sip of water and swallow. As you swallow, watch your neck for bulges or protrusions (other than your Adam’s apple). If you notice anything unusual, you should see a physician who can check for a thyroid nodule or enlarged thyroid gland.

Thyroid cancer tends to be very slow-growing. While the initial signs are often non-specific, the condition may produce symptoms as it progresses, such as coughing, hoarseness, throat pain, difficulty swallowing and swelling in the neck. Prevention is possible only through early detection, and the most common tip-off is a mass in the lower neck. For these reasons, “neck checks” are very important.

If you’d like to request more information about thyroid cancer, have a “neck check” performed by a physician or learn to perform a self-exam, call 1-888-MOFFITT or complete our new patient registration form  online. We do not require referrals.