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House Call: Women & Thyroid Cancer

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Of the 48,000 cases of thyroid cancer in the U.S. in 2011, 38,000 of them occurred in women. Although the reason is unknown, thyroid cancer is more prevalent in the female population.

The thyroid is a small gland located in the base of the neck that helps regulate the function of many of the body’s important organs, including the heart, brain, liver, kidneys and skin.

The most common symptom of thyroid cancer is a lump or swelling in the neck. Other, less common symptoms may include hoarseness, difficulty swallowing and pain in the neck and/or ears.

Aside from being female, other risk factors for the disease include increasing age, family history of the condition and exposure to high levels of radiation.

Fortunately, thyroid cancer is a highly curable form of cancer if detected early, and is often treated successfully through surgery alone. The two main procedures for thyroid surgery are a thyroid lobectomy and total thyroidectomy.  In a thyroid lobectomy, the half of the gland that has the nodule is removed. In a total thyroidectomy, the entire gland is removed.  Additional lymph nodes may be removed to see if the malignancy has spread. Thyroid surgery has a low risk of complications and involves an extremely short hospital stay in which patients come in the day of surgery, and usually leave the next morning.  The recovery period is short as well, with most patients returning to normal activities within a week.  The pain level is also low, with many patients getting off their pain medication within a couple of days.  Cone Health has an exceptional network of primary care physicians, endocrinologists, surgeons and other related healthcare providers dedicated to properly diagnosing and treating individuals in the community with thyroid cancer.

Spokesperson Background:

Dr. Thomas Cornett is a general surgeon at Central Carolina Surgery and a member of the Cone Health Medical Staff. Dr. Cornett earned his medical degree from the University of Cincinnati, and completed his residency in general surgery at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.