How to Do a Thyroid Self-Exam

Learn the facts about thyroid cancer and find out how to monitor yourself for abnormalities

Photo Credit: Shutterstock
Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Thyroid cancer facts

The incidence rate of thyroid cancer has more than doubled in the population since 1970, according to Health Canada, and women are three times more likely to be diagnosed than men. Between 2004 and 2019, thyroid cancer rose 5.9% in women each year.

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. Learn thyroid facts everyone should know.

Symptoms to be aware of

According to Health Canada, you should see your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • a lump or swelling in the front of the neck
  • swollen lymph nodes in the neck; this can often take the form of a large mass in the neck or as multiple swollen nodes in the thyroid
  • hoarseness or other voice changes, including difficulty speaking in a normal voice
  • trouble swallowing or breathing
  • persistent pain in the throat or neck that does not go away
  • diarrhea

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.

This article was adapted from “Diagnosis: Thyroid Disease,” in the September 2009 issue of Best Health

Next, learn how to tell if you have a hidden thyroid problem.