Thyroid Cancer: Know the Symptoms, Diagnostic Techniques and Treatment

(April 17, 2019 - Carroll Township, Pa.)

For nearly a quarter century, Deborah Norville has been a daily guest in living rooms from coast to coast as the host of "Inside Edition," a syndicated TV news magazine. She often reports about people's triumphs over adversity as well as health and wellness issues and celebrity news. In early April, the cheerful journalist became the story when a viewer reached out to her after noticing a lump on the anchor's neck. It turned out to be thyroid cancer, a localized form of cancer that begins in the thyroid gland in the front of the neck. According to published reports, Ms. Norville underwent surgery to remove the cancerous thyroid nodule and is looking forward to a full recovery.

Thyroid cancer is the most rapidly increasing cancer in this country. The American Cancer Society estimates that approximately 52,000 new cases of thyroid cancer will be diagnosed in the United States this year. Much of this rise appears to be the result of the increased use of thyroid ultrasound, which can detect small thyroid nodules that might not otherwise have been found in the past.

Thyroid cancer can produce the following symptoms: pain, swelling or a fast-growing lump in the neck; hoarseness or a cough that is not due to a cold; and difficulty swallowing or breathing.

According to Adil Chaudry, M.D., a radiologist at Monongahela Valley Hospital (MVH), thyroid cancer is often found incidentally. "We sometimes find thyroid cancer when we are performing routine imaging such as a CT scan of the neck or chest," he explained. "The next step is an ultrasound and if any nodule is larger than 1.0 or 1.5 cm, we recommend a needle biopsy. If they biopsy indicates the nodule is malignant, the patient is referred to an ENT physician."

MVH also uses uptake and scans to diagnose thyroid cancer. Patients swallow a capsule of radioactive iodine, called I-123 which over a period of several hours is absorbed by the thyroid gland. A special camera is then placed in front of the neck to measure the amount of radiation in the gland in the form of hot and cold nodules.

"Areas that take up more radiation are called hot nodules and they are usually not cancerous," said Billie Tabatabai, Nuclear Medicine supervisor. "Cold nodules have less radioactivity than the surrounding tissue and can be benign or cancerous. Because both benign and cancerous nodules can appear cold, this test by itself can't diagnose thyroid cancer."

While many of the symptoms of thyroid cancer can be caused by other non-cancerous conditions, it is important to consult your doctor if you notice any of the symptoms. And it is important to remember that the American Cancer Society reports that most thyroid cancers can be treated successfully.

Monongahela Valley Hospital's Charles L. and Rose Sweeney Melenyzer Pavilion and Regional Cancer Center provides innovative therapies and a compassionate environment for people and their families during all phases of cancer. Comprehensive cancer care services include: diagnostic radiology, medical oncology, radiation therapy, surgical services and chemotherapy. MVH's Cancer Program is accredited by the American College of Surgeons' Commission on Cancer.

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