Spotlight on Thyroid Health: What you should know for Thyroid Awareness Month

As we begin the new year with a focus on improving our health, Thyroid Awareness Month serves as a reminder not to overlook the importance of our thyroid.

Roughly 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease, yet many may not realize it, since these issues often go undetected. While the exact causes of thyroid problems remain largely unknown, they can contribute to various health concerns, such as fatigue, weight changes, and mood fluctuations.

Thyroid 101: What does the thyroid do?

Your thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped organ that sits in the front of your neck and wraps around your windpipe (trachea). It helps regulate your metabolism and keep your body running like a well-oiled machine. When your thyroid isn’t functioning properly, your metabolism can start to slow down or speed up, which can affect your:

  • Energy levels
  • Weight
  • Heart health
  • Sleep quality
  • Mental health and mood
  • Brain function
  • Skin and hair appearance
  • Menstrual cycles
  • Sex drive
  • Sensitivity to heat and cold

What conditions can affect your thyroid health?

Thyroid disease is a broad term for any condition that affects your thyroid. Since thyroid issues often affect your metabolism, they can have far-reaching impacts on your physical and mental health as well as your lifestyle.

The two most common thyroid conditions are hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.  Hypothyrdoidism is when the body doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone, which causes metabolism to slow down, whereas hyperthyroidism is when your body makes too much thyroid hormone and speeds up your metabolism.

How are thyroid conditions diagnosed?

Thyroid conditions cause symptoms that can affect your overall health and quality of life, but it’s not always easy to connect the dots back to your thyroid without the help of a healthcare professional. Depending on your situation, diagnosing your thyroid problems may include:

  • Blood tests to check the levels of different thyroid hormones
  • Imaging scans to check for irregular thyroid size or shape or growths on your thyroid
  • A physical exam (a provider feels your neck for abnormal thyroid size or growths)

Thyroid Awareness Month is the perfect time to talk with your provider about your risk for thyroid conditions and get your thyroid checked!

Thyroid issues are usually treatable with the help of a healthcare provider, including conditions like hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), and thyroid cancer.

What is thyroid cancer?

Thyroid cancer refers to abnormal cell growth in the thyroid gland that has the potential to keep growing and eventually spread to other parts of your body. Thyroid cancer is relatively uncommon compared to other types of cancer, but around 44,000 people in the United States receive a new thyroid cancer diagnosis each year. It’s extremely treatable and can usually be cured with surgery.

The most common warning sign of thyroid cancer is a lump or growth on the front of the neck. You may notice swelling when looking in the mirror, putting on a necklace, or fastening the top button of a shirt. Most thyroid growths are benign, but it’s always a good idea to get them checked out by a healthcare provider as soon as possible.

How is thyroid cancer diagnosed and treated?

To diagnose thyroid cancer, a healthcare provider will:

  • Perform a physical exam to feel the thyroid growth
  • Use an imaging test, like an ultrasound, to take a look at the thyroid
  • Perform a fine-needle biopsy to remove cells from your thyroid and test them for cancer

Often, thyroid cancer can be managed with active surveillance or treated and cured with surgery to remove all or part of the thyroid. If the tumor is larger, has spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body, or has a high risk of returning, other treatments, such as radioiodine therapy may be recommended.

How Carrum Health can help with thyroid cancer

If your test results suggest the possibility of thyroid cancer and your employer offers cancer care through Carrum Health, connect with us today. Your coverage typically includes a second opinion and personalized care plan from one of the top cancer care centers at no cost to you. Often, this can be done virtually, from the comfort of your home. You may also receive virtual support from highly trained nurses who can answer cancer-related questions, discuss appointment details, and provide up to two years of ongoing assistance.

See if the Carrum Health cancer care benefit is available to you. Check your eligibility.

The information contained on this article are for informational purposes only. No material is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.