What are causes of lumps in the neck?
There are many possible causes of lumps in the neck. These include bacterial or viral infections, cancer, injury, sebaceous cysts, or enlarged lymph nodes. Lumps located in the front of the neck are usually not a cause for alarm and may be caused by injury to the neck muscles, while lumps just below the skin are often caused by sebaceous cysts.
A more worrying cause of neck lumps is the thyroid gland, a small organ located in the front of the neck that’s shaped like a butterfly. 80% of the swelling or lumps caused by the thyroid gland is benign while the rest may indicate thyroid disease or cancer.
What is thyroid cancer?
Thyroid cancer is a cancer that forms in the thyroid gland (located in front of the neck at the base of the throat). There are four main types of thyroid cancer: papillary, follicular, medullary, and anaplastic thyroid cancer. The four types differ in how aggressive they are.
Papillary thyroid cancer – This is the most common form of thyroid cancer, accounting for 75% of cases. They are usually slow growing, but they tend to spread to the lymph nodes in the neck. Most of these cancers can be treated successfully.
Some subtypes of “papillary thyroid”, tend to be more aggressive and may grow or spread more quickly than usual.
Follicular thyroid cancer – This is the second most common type of thyroid cancer accounting for 15% of cases. This cancer type tends to spread via the bloodstream to other parts of the body such as the lungs and bones.
Medullary thyroid cancer – This uncommon form of cancer accounts for 5% of cases. These cancers arise from the parafollicular C cells in the thyroid that are typically responsible for producing a hormone called calcitonin, which helps to control the level of calcium in the body.
Anaplastic thyroid cancers – This is the rarest form of thyroid cancer and accounts for 2% of cases. They are aggressive in nature and grow and spread very quickly to other parts of the body.
What are the risk factors for thyroid cancer?
- Thyroid cancer is more common in women than men
- It can occur at any age but more common in older people
- People with exposure to radiation especially in the head and neck area
- Diet low in iodine
- Having family history of RET gene defect (Familial Medullary Thyroid Carcinoma & Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia, Type 2)
- APC gene defect (Familial Adenomatous Polyposis)
What are the signs and symptoms of thyroid cancer?
- A nodule or swelling in the neck area
- Worsening hoarseness or any other changes in voice
- Difficulty swallowing
- Difficulty breathing
- Cough that would not go away
- Pain in front of the neck
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
How is thyroid cancer detected?
- Ultrasound scan
- Ultrasound-guided Biopsy
How is thyroid cancer treated?
Thyroid cancer that is detected in early stage can be treated successfully. If the patient receives a late diagnosis, the thyroid may need to be surgically removed, necessitating lifelong reliance on thyroid hormone replacement therapy.
Treatments available are:
- Open surgery
- Endoscopy surgery
- Radioactive iodine therapy
Why choose Centre for Screening and Surgery?
The Centre for Screening and Surgery (CSS) specialises in the screening and detection of cancer in its early stages. A high-resolution ultrasound machine is used to diagnose thyroid nodules, lumps and bumps on the skin, liver, gallstones, breast or hernias. Results of the ultrasound scan will be available on the same day of the scan.
CSS is led by Dr Kum Cheng Kiong, a pioneer in Asia for Minimally Invasive Surgery (Laparoscopic Surgery or Keyhole Surgery) with more than 30 years of experience and has received advanced training in colorectal surgery in Cleveland clinic, USA. He is the former President of the Singapore chapter of the Endoscopic and Laparoscopic Surgeons of Asia (ELSA) and the founding member of the Endoscopic and Laparoscopic Surgeons of Asia.
No, there is no evidence that homeopathic remedies or lifestyle changes can treat any type of cancer, and it’s dangerous to rely solely on alternative treatments like herbs and supplements. Medical intervention is necessary to stop the spread of cancer or slow its growth.
There are no known ways to prevent thyroid cancer, but you can take the following precautions to reduce your risk:
- Refrain from unnecessary exposure to radiation around the neck area, including radiation from medical imaging procedures, especially in young children.
- For those who have tested positively for the RET gene mutation and has family members with thyroid cancer, you may consider removal of the thyroid surgically
- Those with other inherited genetic conditions that increase the risk of medullary thyroid cancer may wish to seek advice from a genetic counsellor.