Health

One Sign of Thyroid Cancer You Should Know

Thyroid cancer is unique because, in certain cases, you can detect the condition by paying attention to your neck. But that's only helpful if you know what you're looking for, as actor Lorna Nickson Brown discovered when she was diagnosed in 2015.

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In a tweet, Brown shared two photos of herself — one taken about a year before her diagnosis and another taken post-surgery. "You can clearly see the lump on my neck" in the photo on the left, Brown wrote. “Yet, we missed it at the time.”

The American Cancer Society (ACS) lists several signs of thyroid cancer: a lump on the neck that can grow quickly, neck swelling, neck pain, troubling swallowing or breathing, and a "constant cough," for example. Not everyone who develops thyroid cancer will experience all of these symptoms, but a hard lump on the front of the neck is the most common sign.

Part of the reason for the knowledge gap when it comes to thyroid cancer is that it's a relatively rare form of cancer, as Brown noted. There are about 65,000 cases of thyroid cancer in the U.S. each year — though doctors have recently disputed its classification, arguing that about 10,000 of those cases should be referred to as "thyroid tumors." It should also be noted that thyroid nodules, which are lumps that develop on the thyroid, are significantly more common and the "vast majority" are non-cancerous. 

There are more than 3 million cases of thyroid nodules in the U.S. each year, according to the American Thyroid Association. 

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"It is not widely known about," she wrote. "I didn’t even know what a thyroid was when I was told I had thyroid cancer."

That's why Brown decided to share her story on Twitter last week. Raising awareness about the signs of thyroid cancer can help others detect the condition early — and because the cancer is highly treatable, the sooner it's caught, the swifter the recovery.  

"Now I feel tremendously lucky that my treatment was successful and feel it is my duty to raise awareness of this condition," Brown wrote. "Please check your neck, and look at others around you. Most thyroid cysts are benign, but some aren’t. Mine certainly wasn’t. Get it checked!"