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Thyroid cancer symptoms: Lump in the neck could be a sign – when it is cancerous

Thyroid cancer: Know the symptoms

Thyroid cancer is when abnormal cells in the thyroid gland start to divide and grow in an uncontrolled way. The thyroid gland is a small gland at the base of the neck that produces hormones. “Without treatment, cancer cells can eventually grow into surrounding healthy tissues and may spread to other areas of the body,” warns Cancer Research UK.

It is therefore imperative to act on the warning signs as soon as they appear to strengthen treatment outcomes.

One of the main symptoms is a painless lump or swelling low down in the front of the neck, according to the NHS.

“However, neck lumps are common and are usually caused by a less serious condition, such as an enlarged thyroid (goitre),” explains the health body.

According to the latest figures, only around one in every 20 neck lumps are cancer.

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According to the NHS, a neck lump is more likely to be cancer if it:

  • Feels firm
  • Does not move around easily under the skin
  • Gets bigger over time.

“See a GP if you have a swelling or lump at the front of your neck. While it’s unlikely to be cancer, it’s important to get it checked,” advises the health body.

Other symptoms to look out for

Other symptoms of thyroid cancer include:

  • Swollen glands in the neck
  • Unexplained hoarseness that does not get better after a few weeks
  • A sore throat that does not get better
  • Pain in your neck
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty breathing.

Am I at risk?

It’s not usually clear what causes thyroid cells to grow uncontrollably but there are a number of things that can increase your risk.


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It is important to note that having any of the risk factors doesn’t mean that you will definitely develop cancer.

According to Cancer Research UK, some non cancerous (benign) conditions of the thyroid increase your risk of thyroid cancer.

These include:

  • Nodules (adenomas)
  • An enlarged thyroid (goitre)
  • Inflammation of the thyroid (thyroiditis).

“Thyroid cancer is more common in people who had radiotherapy treatment, particularly in people treated with radiotherapy when they were children,” warns Cancer Research UK.

According to the charity, people who have low levels of iodine in their body might have a higher risk of thyroid cancer after exposure to radiation than people with normal iodine levels.

Furthermore, you have a higher risk if you have a family member with thyroid cancer, it adds.

There is also a modifiable risk factor associated with developing thyroid cancer – obesity.

According to Macmillan Cancer Support, it is thought that people who are overweight may have a higher risk of getting thyroid cancer.

A healthy diet and regular exercise may therefore reduce the risk by helping you to maintain a healthy weight.

How to treat thyroid cancer

Treatment for thyroid cancer will depend on the stage of the cancer and your general health.

“Surgery is usually the first treatment. You may also have treatment with radioactive iodine or thyroid replacement therapy,” explains Macmillan Cancer Support.

It adds: “Occasionally, you may have external beam radiotherapy, targeted therapies or chemotherapy.”

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