A mum-of-three hopes to raise awareness of thyroid cancer, after she noticed a swollen lump on her neck which turned out to be cancerous.
Claire Virge was on a Zoom call with her colleagues when she noticed the lump, by chance.
The 31-year-old contacted her GP, assuming it was linked to medication she had been taking for her skin.
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She was horrified to find out that it was actually a growth caused by two types of thyroid cancer, papillary and follicular.
‘My GP made an urgent referral to the hospital’
Claire said: “I was on a video call with a colleague when I found this lump purely by accident.
“I had been taking tablets for my skin and at first I thought maybe it was a side effect. I called my GP who made an urgent referral to the hospital. After various tests and scans I was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer. I was booked in for surgery a week later to have my thyroid removed, where they discovered I actually had two forms of thyroid cancer.”
The thyroid gland is a small butterfly shaped gland in the neck, in front of the windpipe. One of its main functions is to produce hormones that help regulate the body’s metabolism.
The symptoms of thyroid cancer include having a painless lump or swelling, swollen glands, sore throat and difficulty swallowing.
Claire’s thyroid was removed in February and she is now waiting to start treatment to kill any remaining cancerous cells.
‘I had the lump in my neck for nearly a year’
Claire, from Market Deeping, Lincolnshire, has been given vital support from her family - husband Robbie and children Sienna (13), Zach (10) and 19 month old Rosie - over the past few months as she has battled the condition - but the fight has taken its toll on her loved ones as well as her.
Claire said: “The last few months have been horrendous for me and my family. For years it has been drilled into women to check our breasts - I even have monthly text reminders from CoppaFeel.
“No-one ever told me to check my neck - I hadn’t even heard of thyroid cancer. When I was Googling my symptoms, thyroid cancer wasn’t even mentioned. Looking back at pictures I believe I had the lump in my neck for nearly a year.”
Thyroid cancer is most likely to affect people in their 30s or 60s and is two to three times more prevalent in women, according to the NHS. Ten people in the UK are diagnosed with thyroid cancer every single day and, worryingly, in the last decade thyroid cancer cases in the UK have increased by 68 per cent and are projected to rise by 74 per cent.
Claire said: “I’m sharing my story to raise awareness of the importance of checking your neck, in the hope it will benefit other women my age. I have had so many messages from people telling me they never thought about checking their neck and this would now be part of their routine – which is great to hear. When it’s so simple, there’s no reason not to! I am hoping to replicate similar breast checking campaigns and get more people checking their neck regularly.”
There are a number of factors that may increase your risk of developing thyroid cancer - exposure to radiation, family history and weight. When diagnosed at an early stage nearly all people with thyroid will survive their disease for one year or more.
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