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Deborah Norville Cancer Scare: What to know about thyroid cancer

When was the last time you thought about your thyroid? … Been a while, hasn’t it? Now is the time to have a second thought – especially women, who are more likely than men to have thyroid diseases, especially right after pregnancy and after menopause.

Recently, journalist Deborah Norville, 60, returned to Inside Edition following a cancer scare. On April 2, she had surgery to remove most of her thyroid, which controls many activities in your body, including how fast you burn calories and how fast your heart beats.

Norville’s routine surgery was not without risk. “The area where the thyroid is located is also where the nerves that control your voice box are located, and it was very, very, scary for me and let’s face it, I talk for a living,” Norville said after the surgery. “The challenge was to remove the right lobe of my thyroid without damaging the all-important nerves that power my vocal cords.” [1]

What is thyroid cancer?

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland (just below the Adam’s apple). Diseases of the thyroid cause it to either make too much or too little hormone. Depending on thyroid output, you may often feel restless or tired, or you may lose or gain weight.

The American Cancer Society estimates about 52,070 new cases of thyroid cancer (14,260 in men and 37,810 in women) in 2019, with approximately 2,170 deaths (1,020 men and 1,150 women). The ACS notes thyroid cancer is commonly diagnosed at a younger age, and women are 3 times more likely than men to develop this cancer. [2]

The Mayo Clinic lists five types of thyroid cancer, and the type of cancer will dictate treatment and prognosis: [3]

  • Papillary thyroid cancer (the most common)
  • Follicular thyroid cancer
  • Medullary thyroid cancer
  • Anaplastic thyroid cancer (rare and grows rapidly)
  • Thyroid lymphoma (also rare)

Typically, there are no symptoms of thyroid cancer early in the disease. As the tumor grows, however, it may cause:

  • A lump that can be felt on your neck
  • Changes to your voice (including hoarseness)
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Neck and throat pain
  • Swollen lymph nodes in your neck

Post-pregnancy thyroid inflammation

And about that post-pregnancy time? While taking care of the new bundle of joy, don’t forget to watch after yourself.

Postpartum thyroiditis (inflammation of the thyroid after giving birth) affects 10% of women. [4] It often goes undiagnosed because symptoms often mimic the “baby blues” that may follow the delivery. Women with postpartum thyroiditis may feel tired and moody.

Postpartum thyroiditis typically happens in two phases, though not everyone with the condition goes through both stages:

The first phase starts 1 to 4 months after giving birth and generally last 1 to 2 months. In this phase, you may have signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism because the damaged thyroid leaks thyroid hormones out into the bloodstream.

The second phase starts about 4 to 8 months after delivery and lasts 6 to 12 months. In this phase, you may have signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism because the thyroid has lost most of its hormones or because the immune attack is over, and the thyroid may recover later.

For Norville, it was a lump that two eagle-eye viewers – Anita Koszyk and Gwen MacDonald – brought to her attention. Koszyk had also undergone thyroid surgery, and MacDonald is a retired nurse.

“After the surgery, I became a little more aware of people’s neck characteristics, and I noticed when I was watching Deborah Norville on TV, I saw that she seemed to have a nodule on her neck,” Koszyk said.

“If you suspect something, don’t be afraid. Go have it checked,” MacDonald added.

 

Citations:

(1) Inside Edition. Deborah Norville Says Thyroid Surgery Was’ Very Scary for Me’. https://www.insideedition.com/deborah-norville-says-thyroid-surgery-was-very-scary-me-52212

(2) American Cancer Society. Thyroid Cancer Survival Rates, by Type and Stage. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/thyroid-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/survival-rates.html

(3) Mayo Clinic. Thyroid Cancer. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/thyroid-cancer/symptoms-causes/syc-20354161

(4) The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/endocrine-diseases/pregnancy-thyroid-disease