January is National Thyroid Awareness Month. According to the American Thyroid Association, 1 in 10 people suffer from a thyroid disorder. They also found that at least 1 in 8 women will develop a thyroid disorder during her lifetime.
Did you know, more than half of the people in America that suffer from a thyroid disorder are undiagnosed? Raising awareness about the thyroid is important because it plays a significant role in the human body.
The thyroid is a small butterfly shaped gland located just above your collarbone and in front of the windpipe. This gland controls important functions such as regulating breathing, heart rate, body weight, muscle strength, cholesterol, and body temperature. Thyroid disease refers to a number of conditions that affect how the gland functions. The thyroid can be either overactive or underactive and both conditions can lead to health problems. Two of the most common thyroid diseases are hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism.
Also known as overactive thyroid disease, this condition occurs when your thyroid gland produces excess levels of the thyroid hormone thyroxine. Additionally, this thyroid disease can increase your body's metabolism, causing weight loss and an irregular heartbeat.
Having an under-active thyroid is also known as hypothyroidism. Essentially, this condition occurs when the thyroid gland doesn't produce enough thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). Hypothyroidism's deficiency of thyroid hormones can disrupt things such as heart rate, body temperature, and all aspects of metabolism. Major symptoms include fatigue, cold sensitivity, constipation, dry skin, and unexplained weight gain.
Thyroid cancer begins when the cells grow and multiply rapidly. These cells form a tumor and the abnormal cells can spread throughout the body. There are no early symptoms. However, as the cells grow, they may cause a lump in the neck, swollen lymph glands, voice changes, and difficulty swallowing. Most cases of thyroid cancer can be cured with surgery to remove most or all of the thyroid.
THE FOUR TYPES OF THYROID CANCER
- Papillary thyroid cancer
This is the most common of the differentiated thyroid cancers. It grows slowly but may spread to lymph nodes on the neck.
- Follicular thyroid cancer
As the second most common form of thyroid cancer, these cancer nodules grow slowly and near areas with high iodine deficiencies in the body. Thankfully, this is one of the easiest forms of thyroid cancer to treat.
- Medullary thyroid cancer
This type of thyroid cancer is less common and cases are usually hereditary. However, it has a higher chance of spreading to the lymph nodes than other types.
- Anaplastic thyroid cancer
While this is the most aggressive form of thyroid cancer, it is thankfully the rarest. It is very dangerous because it grows rapidly and easily spreads.
If you are diagnosed with thyroid cancer, treatment options will depend on the type of cancer you have.
DIAGNOSING THYROID DISEASES
Thyroid conditions are all treatable. When diagnosing thyroid diseases, doctors use your medical history, a physical exam, and specialized blood tests. Some of these blood tests examine your the amount of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) in your blood. With these tests, a doctor can tell from your TSH levels if you have hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. Thyroid disorders can be treated by medications or, in some cases, surgery. Treatment will depend on the particular disease of the thyroid.
Thyroid awareness is key to helping people recognize the symptoms of thyroid problems. With better awareness, people will know when to talk to their doctors about testing and treatment. Thyroid awareness month is every January. The goal of this movement is to increase awareness of thyroid diseases as well as prevention, treatment, and cure.
DON'T HESITATE TO ASK QUESTIONS
This January, we urge you to help us raise awareness during National Thyroid Awareness Month — and urge you take part in the fight to treat undiagnosed thyroid conditions and even other forms of cancer. If you have any concerns or questions about thyroid issues, talk to your doctor. Discuss any symptoms you may be experiencing, your family history, or even just basic questions. At Summit Medical Group, our providers have years of experience and are happy to visit with you about your concerns. Our providers can help you find the best course of treatment.
For additional information or to find a Summit physician near you, visit www.summitmedical.com.