How to Do a Neck Check for Thyroid Issues

Image of plastic thyroid gland.

When it comes to cancer diagnoses and other health conditions, early detection is key. Though some cancers are harder to detect than others, there are steps we can take to monitor our own bodies.

Screening for cancer often starts at home by doing self-exams and then following up with a medical professional. Were you aware that you can perform a self-check on your thyroid? Like breast, skin, or testicular checks, you can examine yourself with just a few steps.

Endocrinologist Dr. Elise Brett, a professor at the Icahn School of Medicine, walks us through how to conduct a thyroid self-examination. If you’re not sure what or where that is, the thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the front part of the neck. As the doctor points out, it sits “over the windpipe and below the voice box.” Men: you can look directly under your Adam’s apple.

It’s responsible for hormone production and regulation, releasing them into the blood to do their jobs. It affects things like metabolism, heart rate, weight, and the digestive system. This tiny gland is extremely important, impacting every organ and cell in the body.

Dr. Brett demonstrates that for this particular test, all you need is a cup of water and a mirror. She states that what you’re looking for are either signs of enlargement or nodules, which are small growths. Simply drink the water, look in the mirror, and check for any weird bulges or size differences.

Click on the clip below to see how Dr. Brett positions her head and neck for this exam. If you notice any lumps or swellings, schedule an appointment with a physician for a proper diagnosis. According to the American Thyroid Association, roughly 20 million Americans have some form of a thyroid disease, with women being 5 to 8 more times likely than men to have one. The Thyroid Foundation of Canada places its global estimates at 200 million people.

Though having a thyroid condition is not always indicative of cancer, it’s important to pay attention to any signs or abnormalities that let you know something is off. There are a number of thyroid diseases that require a proper diagnosis and follow-up treatment. They include goiter, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, and Hashimoto’s disease.

Be aware that the presence of any lumps on the thyroid do not automatically mean you have a thyroid condition. Sometimes those nodules are benign in nature and are a common occurrence. The best way to find out is to see a medical provider for a full round of testing.

The good news is that thyroid problems are treatable, including cancer. Depending on the stage of thyroid cancer, its survivability rate is relatively high with treatment, according to the American Cancer Society. As with any cancer, prevention and detection is key.

Part of self-care is listening to our bodies and taking advantage of guides that teach us how to self-monitor our own health. Do you practice self-exams in the course of your personal care regimen? How often do you perform routine self-checks like this thyroid exam? Tell us in the comments!