Cancer survivor Hill Harper is having to watch what he eats and exercise religiously after his thyroid was removed in surgery. The author and actor has been given the all-clear after undergoing surgery to remove his cancerous thyroid – but now he faces a constant battle to stay in shape.
Thyroid cancer is a disease that you get when abnormal cells begin to grow in your thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is shaped like a butterfly and is located in the front of your neck. It makes hormones that regulate the way your body uses energy and that help your body work normally.
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Thyroid cancer is an uncommon type of cancer. Most people who have it do very well, because the cancer is usually found early and the treatments work well. After it is treated, thyroid cancer may come back, sometimes many years after treatment.
What are the symptoms?
Thyroid cancer can cause several symptoms:
- You may get a lump or swelling in your neck. This is the most common symptom.
- You may have pain in your neck and sometimes in your ears.
- You may have trouble swallowing.
- You may have trouble breathing or have constant wheezing.
- Your voice may be hoarse.
- You may have a frequent cough that is not related to a cold.
Some people may not have any symptoms. Their doctors may find a lump or nodulein the neck during a routine physical exam.
How is thyroid cancer diagnosed?
If you have a lump in your neck that could be thyroid cancer, your doctor may do abiopsy of your thyroid gland to check for cancer cells. A biopsy is a simple procedure in which a small piece of the thyroid tissue is removed, usually with a needle, and then checked.
Sometimes the results of a biopsy are not clear. In this case, you may need surgery to remove all or part of your thyroid gland before you find out if you have thyroid cancer.
How is it treated?
Thyroid cancer is treated with surgery and often with radioactive iodine. It rarely needs radiation therapy or chemotherapy. What treatment you need depends on your age, the type of thyroid cancer you have, and the stage of your disease. Stage refers to how severe the disease is and how far, if at all, the cancer has spread.
Your doctor may also remove lymph nodes in your neck to see if cancer has spread beyond the thyroid.