We can fight thyroid cancer — together.
Up to 60 percent of those with thyroid disease are unaware of their condition.2,†
Approximately 179,000 women and 76,000 men in the United States will be challenged with a diagnosis of thyroid cancer this year.1 Women are 5-8 times more likely to have a thyroid imbalance than men. 2,†
During Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month, we’re encouraging everyone to ask for a neck check during annual exams. Awareness and action are the most important steps toward helping us fight thyroid cancer — and continue to live life fully.
What is the thyroid?
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that sits at the base of the neck, in front of the throat.
Early warning signs to discuss with your physician3
- A lump or swelling in your neck
- Trouble breathing or swallowing
- Hoarseness or other voice changes
- Pain in the front of your neck
Ask for a neck check the next time you see your doctor.
It only takes a minute, and early detection can save lives.
Talk to your doctor about the risks.
Patient thyroid disease stories
We’re inspired by the patients whose awareness and actions helped them overcome thyroid disease, including cancer. Here are their stories.
Turning awareness into action.
Agnieszka Langer was aware of thyroid cancer, but as a healthy woman in her mid-forties, she never felt the urge to conduct self-checks for thyroid disease. But she happens to be the spouse of a Medtronic employee who was inspired by the company’s Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month campaign. He scheduled comprehensive screenings for them both and during Agnieszka’s exam, the doctor discovered a nodule that was confirmed with an ultrasound. She was referred to a specialist who recommended surgery.
Agnieszka was aware of thyroid cancer treatment and went out of her way to find a surgeon who included nerve monitoring during the procedure.4 The surgery was successful, and Agnieszka got the best possible outcome ― a full recovery.
Nerve monitoring becomes personal.
Vanessa Pachione never expected a video call might save her life. But in late 2020, the Medtronic Regulatory Affairs Specialist spoke to a friend who noticed swelling in her neck and chin during their virtual chat. Initially, the Sao Paolo, Brazil resident assumed it was pandemic weight gain. But following an exam, her endocrinologist delivered a surprising diagnosis: Papillary thyroid carcinoma.
Vanessa was reassured that the disease was caught early, which typically leads to a favorable outcome. But because of the pandemic, she had to wait for the procedure. She found comfort in the stories of thyroid disease survivors and when it came time for the procedure, Vanessa trusted a surgeon who used nerve monitoring system — technology she was familiar with through her regulatory role at Medtronic. Now she’s recovering and inspired to share her journey with others — encouraging them to regularly check their necks.
A daily inconvenience becomes a crucial warning sign.
Vanessa Willems is a Medtronic employee. This is her story.
Last year, lettuce began sticking in my throat every time I ate salad for lunch. I’d try to clear my throat for hours afterwards, usually with no success. My colleagues and I nicknamed it “lettuce throat,” and after six months of struggling, I made an appointment with a local ENT doctor.
An ultrasound showed a 4cm thyroid nodule that was somewhat calcified, which can mean cancer. A fine needle aspiration came back negative, but those results were inconclusive.
I had choices: monitor the nodule every six months, or have it surgically removed. I chose a third option — an appointment with a thyroid specialist. This surgeon explained how serious the nodule could be and performed a lobectomy of the right half of my thyroid.
Not long after, I got the call – testing of a surgical sample showed I had Medullary Thyroid Cancer (MTC), and it was life threatening.
As a long-time volunteer with the American Cancer Society, I regularly work with cancer patients. But when you’re the patient, it’s different. My doctor said MTC is the second worst type of thyroid cancer, and in all her years as a thyroid specialist, I was one of her few MTC cases.
This time, I had only one treatment option – immediate surgery to remove the other half of my thyroid gland. The day after surgery, my calcitonin levels had dropped from 200 prior to my first surgery to just five.
I was cancer free.
Information and resources on this site should not be used as a substitute for medical advice from your doctor. Always discuss diagnosis and treatment information including risks with your doctor. Keep in mind that all treatment and outcome results are specific to the individual patient. Results may vary.
† In the U.S.
Deng Y, Li H, Wang M, et al. Global Burden of Thyroid Cancer From 1990 to 2017. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(6):e208759. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.8759.
American Thyroid Association. http://www.thyroid.org/media-main/press-room/. Accessed July 8, 2021.
Stopa M. Prognostic value of intraoperative neural monitoring of the recurrent laryngeal nerve in thyroid surgery. Langenbecks Arch Surg (2017) 402:957–964.