The thyroid gland is located in the neck and is similar in shape to a butterfly with its wings outstretched. The thyroid gland produces thyroid hormones that are responsible, both directly and indirectly, for many different functions within the body. Thyroid hormones are responsible for regulating and maintaining the body's metabolism. Thyroid hormones are also responsible for regulating functions throughout the body including digestive processes, heart rate, brain activity and development, muscle control, and many other processes the body relies on to remain healthy and in balance.
Thyroid cancer remains fairly quiet throughout its earliest stages with very few symptoms being noticed. The major changes occur as the condition continues to advance. Changes in the voice, involving a deeper tone or one that seems to be more hoarse than before, can be one of the first signs that something may be wrong. A noticeable lump in the throat that can be visibly seen or felt through touch is another good indicator. Other common signs of problems with the thyroid include a sore throat, tenderness in the neck near the thyroid gland, swollen lymph nodes, and difficulty swallowing should all give cause that a visit to the doctor is necessary.
The use of radioactive iodine, thyroid hormone replacement therapy, and surgery are common treatment options when it comes to treating diseases that affect the gland. Radioactive iodine is used to essentially "kill" the thyroid. This renders the gland useless so that it no longer produces any hormones. The use of synthetic thyroid hormones in a hormone replacement therapy program will be needed to provide the hormones that are lost if the thyroid gland is destroyed or damaged in any way. If cancer is present, the doctor may recommend surgically removing all or part of the thyroid gland in an attempt to halt the progression of the cancer.
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