World Cancer Day: Never ignore these signs of thyroid cancer

Fluctuations in thyroid hormone may progress into obesity and thyroid cancer. Here’s a complete guide to refer to and avoid the risk.
Watch your salt intake to avoid making thyroid worse. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Dr Altamash Shaikh Updated: 30 Oct 2023, 11:10 am IST
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Understanding the link between weight and thyroid is vital, as obesity raises your risk of getting thyroid cancer. Usually, a higher body mass index (BMI) in adulthood is related to a higher risk of getting thyroid cancer and death due to it. However, weight gain is the main reason that makes the thyroid slow and sluggish.

A better approach in such cases may be weight loss as the first treatment rather than treatment of the thyroid itself. The good news is, one easily treatable cancer that can be, is the thyroid. Most cancers of the thyroid gland are benign. They may be picked up on a routine investigation or when tests are done for a different reason other than the thyroid itself. Usually, there are no specific causes for most. However, there are a few risk factors that may be predisposing to cancer of the thyroid.

cold foods
Prevent thyroid cancer by acting on to its early signs. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Here are some factors that may increase the risk of thyroid cancer:

  1. Female sex is one of the important risk factors. Thyroid hormone imbalances are found more in women.
  2. Other risk factor is exposure to high levels of radiation. Radiation therapy to the head and neck for various other treatments may increase the risk of developing cancer in the thyroid gland .
  3. A family history of thyroid cancer or thyroid disease. Besides these, there are certain inherited genetic syndromes (familial). For example, Medullary thyroid cancer may run in some families. There may be a history of goiter (enlarged thyroid gland).
  4. Obese and overweight individuals have a higher risk of developing thyroid disorder than people who are not overweight. Furthermore, the risk appears to increase as body mass index (BMI) goes up.

Symptoms and signs of thyroid cancer to watch out for:

  1. As the cancer in thyroid gland grows, it may cause a lump (nodule) that can be felt through the skin on your neck.
  2. A change in your voice (increasing hoarseness) is another such symptom to not neglect.
  3. Difficulty in swallowing may be due to an underlying thyroid inflammation.
  4. Pain in your neck and throat or swollen lymph nodes is one such sign to watch out for.
  5. A cough that persists and is not caused by a cold can be due to a thyroid disorder.
thyroid cancer
This small gland located in your throat needs regular screening. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

How to prevent thyroid disorders:

  1. People with a familial gene mutation increases the risk of medullary thyroid cancer. If you’re one such individual, you may consider thyroid surgery to prevent cancer (prophylactic thyroidectomy).
  2. For people settled near nuclear power plants, prevention may mean taking a medication. It will block the effects of radiation on the thyroid.
  3. There are various risk factors and link between thyroid issues and weight. Hence, it will be beneficial to keep your body weight under control.

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About the Author

Dr Altamash Shaikh is a consultant endocrinologist, diabetologist, and metabolic superspecialist at Masina Hospital, Mumbai. ...Read More

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