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Amy Umble is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star

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The thyroid is that butterfly gland just below the Adam’s apple

Dr. Sandy Dhaliwal talks to one of the people who attended her talk.

My guess is that a significant portion of the people who heard Dr. Sandy Dhaliwal talk yesterday did as she asked and went home and looked at themselves in a mirror. They were doing the “Neck Check.” 

Dhaliwal is an endocrinologist at the Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center. Yesterday, dozens of people gathered in the hospital cafeteria to hear her talk about the thyroid, the butterfly-shaped gland at the front of the neck. The gland produces hormones that are vital to overall health, and Dhaliwal advised her audience to visually inspect it periodically. Look for any bulges or protrusions, she said. Sometimes, these suspicious nodules can be cancerous. 

To do the Neck Check (the term appears to be copyrighted), you need a glass of water and a handheld mirror. Then:

* Hold the mirror so you can see the portion of the neck that’s below the Adam’s apple and above the collarbone.

* Take a drink of water and swallow. Dhaliwal said to take a “manly” gulp, not a sip. “When you swallow, what moves in your neck is your thyroid,” she said.

* As you swallow, check the thyroid for any bulges or protrusions. If you do see something weird, see a doctor. “A lot of patients have identified their own nodules. I’ve even had someone identify their own cancer,” she said. 

At Mary Washington Hospital in 2009, thyroid cancer was the fifth most common type of cancer, after breast, lung, colorectal and prostate cancers. The hospital treated 52 cases in 2009, according to its annual cancer report. Forty-three cases were discovered in women. Thirty-six cases were diagnosed at Stage I, the earliest stage. 

Dhaliwal described  thyroid cancer as, “the most benign malignant cancer,” since it usually does not migrate to other organs. The five-year survival rate is 97 percent, according to the American Cancer Society.

(For more on the Neck Check, see this page from the American College of Endocrinology.)


  • Wilma Ariza

    Please PLEASE Correct this misinformation there are several types of thyroid cancer and subtypes

    Papillary thyroid cancer, Follicular thyroid cancer, Anaplastic thyroid cancer, Medullary thyroid cancer and others.

    The type of thyroid cancer and STAGE determines clinical outcomes and thyroid cancer can indeed metastasize to the lymph nodes, other neck structures such as the trachea, salivary glands and jaw, bones, lungs and others.

    According to the National Cancer Institute there were 44, 670 newly diagnosed thyroid cancer cases in America in 2010 and of those 1,690 died.

    For UP to date information on thyroid cancer please visit the National Cancer Institute Homepage.

    While you are correct in the assertion that the five year survival rate in most cases is 97 % It is very irresponsible to say that thyroid cancer does not migrate to other organs because it certainly does. As with any cancer early detection is key.

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