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Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month

The thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of your neck below your Adam’s apple, is responsible for producing hormones that regulate your heart, blood pressure, body temperature and weight. Some thyroid cancers are slow growing, while others are aggressive. Most, however, can be cured with treatment.

Thyroid cancer can cause the following signs or symptoms:

  • A lump in the neck
  • Swelling in the neck
  • Pain in the front of the neck
  • Hoarseness or other voice changes that do not go away
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Trouble breathing
  • A constant cough that is not due to a cold

Although it is not entirely clear what causes thyroid cancer, doctors do know that it occurs when cells in the thyroid undergo genetic changes and these mutations allow the cells to grow and multiply rapidly. The abnormal cells can spread and metastasize to other parts of the body.

Types of thyroid cancer include: 

  • Papillary – This type of cancer can occur at any age, but mostly affects people ages 30 to 50, and arises from follicular cells that produce and store thyroid hormones. 
  • Follicular – Usually affecting people in their 50s, this type of cancer arises from the follicular cells in the thyroid. 
  • Anaplastic – Beginning in the follicular cells, this type of thyroid cancer occurs in adults age 60 and over, grows rapidly, and proves very difficult to treat. 
  • Medullary – Beginning in the thyroid cells called C cells, which produce the hormone calcitonin. Certain genetic syndromes increase the risk of this cancer.

Other rare types include thyroid lymphoma and thyroid sarcoma. 

Those at risk include:

  • Females
  • Those exposed to high levels of radiation
  • Adults and children with certain inherited genetic syndromes, such as familial medullary thyroid cancer, multiple endocrine neoplasia, Cowden’s syndrome and familial adenomatous polyposis.


Since doctors are unsure what exactly causes thyroid cancer, there’s no way to prevent it in people who prove to be at high risk for the disease. Although, there are a few preventative steps that can be taken which include thyroid surgery for adults and children with an inherited gene mutation, and medication which blocks the effects of radiation for those living by a nuclear power plant.

If you experience any of these symptoms, or have questions, find an Ephraim McDowell health care provider and schedule an appointment today.