You could be one of more than 50 million Americans suffering from thyroid disease and not even know it. I was and it took nearly two years to get a diagnosis and then get treated! About two weeks ago, I underwent surgery to remove a nodule growing in my thyroid. It was a little smaller than a golf ball. Here’s what you need to know about thyroid disease through my eyes as a patient.
My thyroid journey started nearly two years ago with phone calls and emails from several different viewers who all noticed the same thing. One of those viewers--Ida Watson.
“I always watched channel 3 news and I'm thinking what's wrong with her neck. It didn't look right, it looked puffy right in here.
It didn't look like normal weight gain to me--it looked like you had something in your throat--something growing,” said Watson.
Several months before Ida emailed me, another viewer called with a similar discovery urging me to get my thyroid checked. That butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your neck controls every aspect of your metabolism from your heart rate to how quickly you burn calories. But, my blood tests came back normal and despite that swelling I now also noticed in my neck--thanks to viewers--doctors assured me I would be fine. That's what I told Ida, but she insisted I do something.
It was a story she knew well. Her daughter, Lisa, suffered from thyroid disease--she also had normal blood tests. It took 13 years before she finally got a proper diagnosis--three thyroid nodules equaling the size of a fist growing in her neck.
After much encouragement from Ida and even more urging from my husband and mom--I agressively pursued a thyroid scan. It's an ultrasound of your neck that delivers a highly sensitive reading of anything out of the ordinary. The diagnosis was a nodule in my right lobe measuring 4.6 cm. The doctor said anything bigger than 3cm is of special concern.
After a fine needle biopsy came back negative for cancer, Dr. Arturo Roa, an ear, nose and throat doctor and surgeon, still recommended removal of the right thyroid lobe as soon as possible. The risk--it could eventually turn into cancer. Several months later, I got that surgery! The procedure is a fairly quick one--about 45 minutes and well worth it!
“I think the longer it goes undetected, the harder the surgery because the goiter grows and it's much more difficult to see the normal anatomy. This is challenging enough because it's a fairly prominent goiter. So, it's a good time she came in because had she waited, it would have been much more difficult to treat,” said Dr. Roa.
Once Dr. Roa removed that nodule, he said it was actually a little bigger than he thought. The thyroid scan only picks up the surface size of the nodule and mine was actually growing inward.
Check out my story on thyroid disease in general. It’s an often MIS-diagnosed condition.