Thyroid cancer facts
The incidence rate of thyroid cancer has more than doubled in the population since 1970, according to Health Canada, and it’s increasing faster than any other cancer. The numbers are still fairly small’comprising about four percent of cancers overall’but the increase is a mystery.
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.
This article was adapted from "Diagnosis: Thyroid Disease," in the September 2009 issue of Best Health. Subscribe today to get the full Best Health experience’and never miss an issue!’and make sure to check out what’s new in the latest issue of Best Health.