At Northside ENT we as physicians specialize in diagnosing and treating diseases of the head and neck. This includes the medical and surgical management of many problems that affect the delicate structures of the neck.

  • Lymph nodes are located throughout the body.
  • They function like filters.
  • When lymph nodes in the neck are enlarged there is usually some sort of inflammation responsible such as a sore throat or even acne.
  • They can however be enlarged in the presence of a tumor, and it is our job to sort out the situation and make testing and treatment recommendations.
  • Neck masses are fairly common findings and are often the source of significant concern.
  • They occur in children and adults as well. Neck masses may be caused by infectious and/or inflammatory diseases, which result in swollen glands.
  • They may also be congenital cysts, which have been present since birth, traumatic in origin (i.e., caused by an injury) or neoplastic disease.

Our board certified Otolaryngologist will complete a thorough evaluation to discover the cause of the neck mass. Diagnosing the neck mass can sometimes be made after a simple history and a complete physical examination in our office. If additional testing is required it will be arranged. Once the diagnosis has been obtained, your doctor will discuss this and treatment options with you. Fortunately most neck masses are benign (non-cancerous). Nonetheless it is imperative that all persistent neck masses be evaluated by an Otolaryngologist for diagnosis and treatment.

The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland that is located in the lower front of your neck.

The thyroid’s job is to secrete thyroid hormone into your blood to reach every tissue in the body. The thyroid hormone works like the thermostat in your house, controlling the pace of all the functions in your body.

Few Thyroid Nodules are Malignant

Thyroid nodules are solid or fluid-filled lumps that form in your thyroid gland in the lower front part of your neck. The good news is that only about five percent are cancerous, causing symptoms.

As a nodule grows, you may notice a lump in your throat while looking in the mirror. Or your doctor may spot a mass during a routine checkup.

The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland in the lower front of your neck. Its job is to secrete thyroid hormone into your blood to reach every tissue in the body.

Thyroid hormone works like the thermostat in your house, controlling the pace of all the functions in your body. Your metabolism, body temperature, heart rate and more.

Thyroid cancer is an abnormal, invasive (malignant) growth of cells in the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is located at the front of the neck below the voice box (larynx). It makes hormones that the body needs to function.

The cause of most thyroid cancers is not known. However, as many as 1 in 10 cases of thyroid cancer are caused by radiation exposure. Examples of 2 ways that radiation exposure could increase your risk of this cancer are 1.) x-ray treatments to the head and neck when you were a child and 2.) radioactive fallout from atomic weapons testing, as happened in the US in the 1950s.

Also, you may have an increased risk if you have a family history of a type of thyroid cancer called medullary cancer or a history of a hormone problem that causes high blood levels of calcium (parathyroid adenoma). Tell your surgeon if you think this may apply to you or a member of your family.

What are the symptoms Thyroid Gland cancer?

Early thyroid cancer does not cause symptoms. As the cancer grows, the first symptom is a lump (nodule) in the front of the neck.

Late symptoms of thyroid cancer are:

  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Hoarseness or trouble speaking in a normal voice
  • Trouble swallowing or breathing
  • Pain in the throat or neck.

These symptoms do not always mean thyroid cancer. Most growths or lumps in the thyroid gland are benign; that is, not malignant. Other problems such as an infection could cause similar symptoms. If you have these symptoms, you should see your health care provider as soon as possible to diagnose the problem.

Your health care provider will ask about your symptoms and your personal and family medical history.

Your provider will examine you. You may also have one or more of the following tests:

  • Blood tests
  • Ultrasound scans of the thyroid gland so your provider can see how many nodules you have, how big they are, and whether they are solid or filled with fluid
  • Radioactive iodide scan, which uses a very small amount of radioactive material to make thyroid nodules show up on a picture
  • Biopsy, which is the removal of tissue to look for cancer cells.

A biopsy is the only sure way to know whether a thyroid nodule is cancerous. Your provider may be able to remove tissue in the office with a needle biopsy, also called needle aspiration. Or you may need to have your lump completely removed with surgery in the operating room. The tissue removed with either of these procedures is then examined in the lab for cancer cells.

What are the types of thyroid cancer?

There are 4 main types of thyroid cancer. The type of cancer is determined by looking at tissue samples under a microscope. Some types of thyroid cancer grow faster than others. The 4 types are:

  • Papillary
  • Follicular
  • Medullary
  • Anaplastic

Papillary and follicular cancers are called well-differentiated cancers and are the most common. Medullary thyroid cancer may be hereditary. Anaplastic thyroid cancer is the most malignant type, but fortunately it is the least common.

How is Thyroid Cancer treated?

The treatment depends on the type of thyroid cancer, whether it is in the thyroid gland only or has spread to other parts of the body–that is, the stage of the cancer–and your age and overall health. One or more of the following treatments may be used:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy, usually with large doses of radioactive iodine Hormone therapy, which uses hormone medicines to stop cancer cells from growing
  • Chemotherapy (anticancer drugs) along with radiation if you have anaplastic cancer

Surgery is the most common treatment. Part or all of the thyroid gland may be removed, as well as any lymph nodes in the area that have cancer.

Radiation therapy for thyroid cancer may be done in different ways. For the common types of thyroid cancer, usually radioactive iodine is given by mouth. Because the thyroid gland takes up iodine, the radioactive iodine collects in thyroid tissue and kills the cancer cells and any remaining thyroid tissue left after surgery. Sometimes a radiation machine outside the body may be used to send high-energy x-rays to the neck to treat certain types of cancer. This is called external radiation therapy.

Thyroid hormones can be used to stop the body from making another hormone that stimulates the thyroid gland (thyroid stimulating hormone). This can help prevent thyroid cancer cells from growing. Thyroid hormones are usually given as pills.

Chemotherapy may be taken by pill, or it may be put into your body by a needle in a vein or muscle. Chemotherapy drugs go into the bloodstream and travel through the body. This allows the drugs to kill cancer cells outside the thyroid gland.

How long will the effects last?

The chance of recovery depends on the type and stage of cancer, as well as your age and overall health.

If part or all of your thyroid gland is removed, you will usually need to take thyroid hormone pills. The thyroid medicine will replace the natural hormone that was made by the thyroid gland and prevent any remaining thyroid tissue from functioning.

How can I take care of myself?

  • Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your health care provider.
  • Keep all appointments with your provider. You will need regular checkups to check your thyroid hormone levels and to make adjustments to your thyroid medicine.
  • Ask your provider any questions you have about the disease, treatments, side effects of the treatments, support groups, and anything else that concerns you.
  • Let your provider know if you have any new symptoms so they can be checked as soon as possible.
  • Eat a healthy diet, especially fruits and vegetables because they can help fight cancer
  • Recognize that having the cancer is an added stress in your life. Take more time for your important relationships and for rest.
  • Find a counselor to help you deal with difficult issues.
  • Spend time with people and activities you enjoy.

For more information, contact:

American Cancer Society Phone: 800-ACS-2345 (800-227-2345)
Web site: http://www.cancer.org

AMC Cancer Research Center and Foundation Phone: 800-525-3777
Web site: http://www.amc.org

National Cancer Institute Phone: 800-4-CANCER (800-422-6237)
Web sites: http://cis.nci.nih.gov and http://www.cancer.gov

How can I help prevent thyroid cancer?

Health care providers do not know how to prevent most types of thyroid cancer because they do not fully understand what causes it. However, scientists have found that the medullary type of thyroid cancer can be caused by a change in a gene called RET. This changed gene can be passed from parent to child. Nearly everyone with the altered RET gene will develop medullary thyroid cancer. If the changed RET gene is found in a member of your family, your provider may suggest that other family members have blood tests for the gene. For people who carry the altered RET gene, frequent lab tests or surgery to remove the thyroid gland before cancer develops may be recommended.

Most people have four pea-sized glands, called parathyroid glands, on the thyroid gland in the neck. Though their names are similar, the thyroid and parathyroid glands are completely different. The parathyroid glands make parathyroid hormone (PTH), which helps your body keep the right balance of calcium and phosphorous.

If your parathyroid glands make too much or too little hormone, it disrupts this balance. If they secrete extra PTH, you have hyperparathyroidism, and your blood calcium rises. If you do not have enough PTH, you have hypoparathyroidism.

Head and neck cancer affects over 55,000 Americans each year, and accounts for three percent of all cancers.

This includes cancers of the mouth, nose, sinuses, salivary glands, throat and lymph nodes in the neck. But most begin in the moist tissues that line the mouth, nose and throat.

Tobacco and alcohol use cause most problems, but sun exposure, HPV and radiation exposure can also cause the cancer.

Cancer of the head and neck is curable if caught early.

Head and neck cancer symptoms include:

  • A lump or sore that doesn’t heal
  • A sore throat that doesn’t go away
  • Trouble swallowing
  • A change or hoarseness in your voice
  • Tobacco use causes 85 percent of head and neck cancers.
  • This includes smoking and smokeless tobacco. Drinking alcohol also increases your risk.
  • Found early, head and neck cancers are often curable.

Treatments include:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Combination of the above

These can affect eating, speaking and breathing, so rehabilitation may be needed.Symptoms and signs can occur with no cancer present.

But you won’t know without an examination. And early diagnosis will result in more effective treatment. Call us today to schedule an appointment at (317)844-5656.