Thyroid Cancer Facts
Rates for new thyroid cancer cases have been rising on average five percent each year over the last 10 years, according to data from the National Cancer Institute. In 2012, there were about 600,000 people living with thyroid cancer in the United States.
The causes of thyroid cancer are unknown, with research only beginning to isolate some environmental factors. However, it is solidly established that people are more at risk if they were ever exposed to radiation. Unlucky people near the radioactive fallout from nuclear test sites in the U.S. have higher cancer rates, as do people who were treated in childhood with “external beam radiation therapy” (for tonsillitis, acne and other ailments) or subjected to high-dose X-rays.
There is also a higher incidence of thyroid cancer near active volcanoes, so if you grew up in Hawaii, the Philippines, Japan, or some other volcanic region, you should be extra-vigilant about monitoring your gland.
How to Do a Thyroid Self-Exam
This technique is recommended by M. Sara Rosenthal, author of The Thyroid Sourcebook and director of the bioethics program at the University of Kentucky.
1. Hold a mirror to your neck, focusing on the area just below the Adam’s apple.
2. Tip your head back slightly.
3. Take a drink of water. Normally, as you swallow, your windpipe rises and then goes back to its normal position.
4. As you swallow, look at your neck. Check for any bulges or a protrusion in the area. Repeat this a few times to be sure you’re all clear. If you’re not sure, see your doctor.
September 2009 issue of Best Health magazine