MIRAMAR, Fla. – Diana Gomez is all too familiar with cancer.
“My sister had breast cancer, my father had kidney and prostate cancer,” she said.
After two close friends developed thyroid cancer, Gomez became concerned about a lump on her own neck.
“That very first night that I saw the lump, I was nervous, and I was nervous when I got confirmation that it was in fact cancer,” she said.
Dr. Ryan H. Sobel, a head and neck surgeon with Broward Health in Fort Lauderdale, said thyroid cancer is becoming more common in younger men and women.
“We are still looking for definitive reasons why and the working explanation is that our ultrasound technology has gotten so good and so sensitive that we’re able to pick up much smaller nodules that we otherwise wouldn’t see,” he said.
While the most common warning sign is a nodule on the neck, thyroid cancer is not always visible.
“Sometimes patients will also notice a pressure sensation when they lie flat just due to bulk of the gland or a mass pushing on the windpipe,” Sobel said.
Surgeries to treat thyroid cancer have become more focused and minimally invasive.
“We’re noticing that for early thyroid cancer most patients are able to be treated very effectively with minimal insult to their daily lives,” Sobel said.
Gomez underwent surgery followed by oral treatment with radioactive iodine.
She said the only difference in her life is the need to take daily medication since she no longer has a functioning thyroid.
“I feel very fortunate and thankful,” she said.
A standard physical exam by a primary care doctor or dentist typically includes a check of your neck and thyroid, which makes it all the more important to keep those annual appointments.