Thyroid Nodule: Cancer Scare in my Twenties
I am not a medical doctor. The contents of this hub are from my experience and journey navigating the health concerns and tests associated with having a large thyroid nodule. The information provided is based on what I have experienced and learned through treatment with my healthcare provider.
What is a thyroid nodule?
A thyroid nodule is a lump or growth on the thyroid gland in the front of your neck. From what I’ve come to understand, most thyroid nodules are small and you aren’t even aware you have one. Most are not cancerous and don’t cause any problems. Others may cause problems in the way of your thyroid function, pain or discomfort, or even trouble breathing if the nodule is large enough. For more information contact your healthcare provider.
Diagnosing my Thyroid Nodule:
I never expected to hear the word "cancer" while in my mid-twenties. In my mind I am still young and physically active, so why would I need to think about that scary "C" word at this time in my life? Well, it happened, and it has been the scariest experience of my life.
During a routine physical exam, my personal physician noticed what felt like an enlarged thyroid gland. Because of this enlargement I was given a referral to get an ultrasound of the glad. At this point, I really hadn’t thought much about it. I knew thyroid problems ran in my family, so at worst, I thought I was experiencing some sort of thyroid function problem.
The day I was told I might have cancer:
Two days after I completed the ultrasound, my physician called me and informed me that my results were abnormal. I had a large, 2 centimeter, nodule on the left side of my thyroid gland. I was told that many physicians begin to get concerned with nodules that are 1 centimeter in size, so a biopsy would be needed as soon as possible to determine if it was cancerous.
At this moment, it felt like everything inside me dropped. Granted, I may have overreacted not actually having a diagnosis of cancer yet, but I was terrified. My mind kept catapulting to the worst case scenario. I started thinking about my family history; my grandmother passed from breast cancer before I was born, my grandfather recently lost his battle with melanoma, my uncle passed from esophageal cancer, my cousin was diagnosed with uterine cancer in her twenties…all the odds seemed to be against me (and in many respects still are).
I played the "what if" game in my head endlessly. Hoping for the best case, but expecting the worst.
Two weeks later, I was in the Endocrinologists’ office getting a biopsy with a fine-needle aspiration, still expecting the worst. The doctor used an ultrasound machine to find the nodule, and stuck a needle through my neck into the nodule to remove sample fluids. This process was repeated 3 or 4 times to get different samples to test. I must say, this was rather uncomfortable!
Before leaving the Endocrinologists office, he explained to me that the results could be either malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous). If it was cancer, there were several different treatment options that could be taken. If it was not cancerous, he wanted to closely monitor the growth with annual biopsies to make sure no cancerous cells had developed.
The final results took about a week to get back. A week felt like an eternity! However, despite all my worrying, the test was negative for cancer!
What is the treatment for a thyroid nodule?
I can really only attest to the treatment plan that my provider has set for me. There are so many different possible considerations when it comes to each individual’s situation that the best bet for more information would be to consult your physician.
In my case, because my results were benign (non-cancerous) I will have to make annual appointments with the Endocrinologist to complete an ultrasound. If the nodule has grown any, I will need a new biopsy to test for cancer growth. Also, if the nodule ends up getting much larger, further action may need to be taken. Only time will tell in my case.
5 steps to staying positive and not thinking about the worst future outcome:
Because my experience is very recent, I’ve had to deal with quite a lot of fear and negative internal conversation about what future outcomes may take place. I know I have a foreign, abnormal growth in my body that could become cancerous and because of this I’ve had quite a lot of anxiety over it. To deal with my anxiety, I’ve promised myself 5 simple steps:
- Take care of your body. There is no room for thinking that because you’re young you can indulge in unhealthy eating habits and an inconsistent physical exercise routine. So take care of your body now, and it won’t be as difficult/problematic in the future. Eat healthy food choices. Exercise daily. Period.
- Take care of your mind. A strong mind contributes to a healthy body, so take time every day to meditate and acknowledge your thoughts and concerns without judgment. Acknowledgement of those thoughts will allow your mind a moment of much needed piece.
- Laugh daily.
- Indulge yourself every once in a while. Taking time for yourself is important, so make time to allow something you enjoy; a manicure or pedicure, a walk through the park, a trip to the beach, or a small present to yourself. Anything that will allow you a moment to spend enjoying your own company.
- Enjoy every day. Take each day as it comes and enjoy the small moments that are usually taken for granted. While work and daily nuances may not be the most fun, there are positive moments happening all day long. Notice them! Even if it is as simple as enjoying the sunshine and fresh air.