January is Thyroid Awareness Month

Jan. 9, 2023

By Aria Stuhmer

Recognized every January, Thyroid Awareness Month sheds light on the prevention and treatment of thyroid conditions. Thyroid Awareness Month is extremely important because 20 million Americans suffer from thyroid conditions, and 60% of them are unaware of their condition

The purpose of the thyroid is to regulate brain development, digestive function, heart rate, metabolic function, and muscle. When the thyroid is not working properly, it results in something called hyperthyroidism.

Hyperthyroidism is hereditary and is caused by a continuous mutation of the Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH). This mutation results in the thyroid muscle producing too much thyroxine, a hormone that regulates human growth and development. With hyperthyroidism, people experience hand tremors and irregular heartbeats. This ailment increases the risk of a thyrotoxic crisis, in which the thyroid produces an excess of thyroxine in a short amount of time, which, if left untreated, is fatal. 

Every year approximately 12,000 men and 30,000 women are diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Of these 42,000 people, 950 men and 1,100 women die from this disease.

Thyroid cancer is another health concern that is recognized during Thyroid Awareness Month. This type of cancer occurs when the nodules in one’s thyroid swell and create cancerous lumps. In 5% of cases, this cancer is inherited through familial links. 

Every year approximately 12,000 men and 30,000 women are diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Of these 42,000 people, 950 men and 1,100 women die from this disease. Men and women ages 30-50 are most commonly affected by papillary thyroid cancer, for which the survival rate is 98% in a five-year period. Thyroid cancer causes difficulty breathing and swallowing, hoarseness in the voice and an incurable cough. 

The most dangerous kind of thyroid cancer is anaplastic carcinoma. This type of thyroid cancer is rare and spreads quickly, so it needs to be tested as soon as possible to avoid any further complications, causing more follicular tumors which come back more often. 

Thyroid cancer is treated using surgery. Most commonly, the tumor is removed along with any other cells that were impacted by cancer. In some instances, depending on how severe the tumor is, the whole thyroid gland may need to be removed. Once removed, patients who had the thyroidectomy will experience dry skin, fatigue and weight gain. However, as long as one keeps up with the medication prescribed by their doctor, they can live normally without any interruption of bodily function

It is essential to take all thyroid conditions seriously because the thyroid plays an important role in a person’s bodily functions, and if not functioning correctly, the consequences could be fatal. 

To reduce one’s risk of developing thyroid cancer, avoid exposure to radiation, specifically around the head and neck. In order to detect thyroid cancer, one should schedule a biopsy, an exam in which a doctor removes a piece of tissue and sends it to a lab for testing to determine if it is cancerous.

There is no age group of people who should get a biopsy. Anyone can and should get one if they suspect that a lump in their neck may result from thyroid cancer. 

This cancer and Thyroid Awareness Month in general is represented by a butterfly because of the shape of the thyroid gland, and its official colors are blue, pink/purple and teal.

bookmark icon