CASES of thyroid cancer in women in the UK are increasing faster than any other type, but few people are aware of its symptoms.
Thyroid cancer is one of the rarer types of the disease, accounting for only one per cent of all cancer cases in England.
But each year there are an estimated 1,900 new diagnoses.
Women are two to three times more likely to develop thyroid cancer than men, while most cases are diagnosed among 30 to 50-year-olds.
Rates of reported instances of the illness have risen by about 50 per cent over the past 30 years, both in England and across the world.
The North East-based Butterfly Cancer Trust has launched a major campaign to highlight the importance of getting any lumps in the neck checked out.
Jim Moor, consultant head and neck and thyroid surgeon at Sunderland Royal Hospital, is among those supporting the drive.
“Thyroid cancer is not common, but for a variety of reasons the number of people being diagnosed is increasing, not just in the UK but worldwide,” he said.
“Part of the explanation is that more and more people are undergoing scans which can help to detect thyroid abnormalities, some of which turn out to be a cancer.
“Often these thyroid nodules are picked up before they have become apparent to the patient.
“However, we also believe that the number of people developing thyroid cancer is increasing, which cannot simply be explained by increases in the number of scans being performed.”
Thyroid cancer in women in the UK is increasing rapidly, but early detection can lead to a full recovery.
“Last year in Sunderland we diagnosed 23 cases of thyroid cancer,” said Mr Moor. “Fortunately, benign thyroid nodules are more than 10 times more common than nodules due to thyroid cancer, so if patients are told they have a thyroid nodule I try to reassure them as much as I can because as we get older more and more of us will develop thyroid nodules.”
Ultrasound scans, blood tests and needle biopsies are used to help build up a picture of what a thyroid nodule is made up of and, where necessary, to offer surgery to remove part or all of the thyroid to establish a diagnosis.
“If diagnosed with thyroid cancer most, but not all, patients are offered additional treatment after surgery to help improve the chance of cure,” said Mr Moor.
“This is called radio-iodine treatment and is given by our colleagues at the Northern Centre for Cancer Care at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle.
“The two most important factors to consider for patients with thyroid cancer are simply the age of the patient and the size of the nodule.
“Young patients and small nodules are much less of a problem.”
For more information, visit www.butterfly.org.uk