Thyroid cancer signs and symptoms: Sofia Vergara reveals doctor found lump in her neck

·4-min read

Watch: Sofia Vergara opens up about being diagnosed with thyroid cancer at 28.

Sofia Vergara has revealed she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer aged 28.

The actor, 49, opened up about her experiences during a Stand Up To Cancer telethon held on Saturday 21 August.

The Modern Family star, who was helping to host the event, recalled: “At 28 years old during a doctor’s visit, my doctor felt a lump in my neck.

“They did a lot of tests and told me finally that I had thyroid cancer," she continued. "When you’re young and you hear the word ‘cancer’, your mind goes to so many places but I tried not to panic and I decided to get educated.”

Vergara added she'd “read every book and found out everything I could about it”, and went on to say that she was fortunate her cancer was detected early. 

Sofia Vergara has revealed she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, aged 28, pictured in August 2021. (Getty Images)
Sofia Vergara has revealed she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, aged 28, pictured in August 2021. (Getty Images)

Now the Emmy Award-nominee wants to encourage others to educate themselves about cancer symptoms and get regular checks at their doctors, including taking up invitations for smear tests and mammograms.

Read more: Woman discovers 'weird' line on fingernail was actually a sign of cancer

What is thyroid cancer?

Thyroid cancer is when abnormal cells in the thyroid gland start to divide and grow in an uncontrolled way. 

It is actually quite rare. According to figures from Cancer Research UK around 3,700 people are diagnosed in the UK each year.

Without treatment, cancer cells could eventually grow into surrounding healthy tissues and may spread to other areas of the body.

The thyroid is a small gland that makes and releases hormones. It’s found at the front of your neck in the lowest part, just behind the small hollow where your collar bones meet. You can’t usually feel a thyroid gland that is normal.

The thyroid gland is in two halves called lobes. Thyroid cancer is usually found in just one lobe. But some types of thyroid cancer can be found in both lobes.

Thyroid cancer is more common in women than in men, with the NHS revealing women are two to three times more likely to develop it than their male counterparts. 

It is also most common in people in their 30s and those over the age of 60. 

There are some factors that can increase the risk of developing thyroid cancer, according to Cancer Research UK, including radiation and some non-cancerous thyroid conditions.

Symptoms of thyroid cancer can include a lump in the throat. (Getty Images)
Symptoms of thyroid cancer can include a lump in the throat. (Getty Images)

Types of thyroid cancer

There are four main types of thyroid cancer:

- papillary carcinoma – the most common type, which accounts for about eight in 10 cases. It usually affects people under 40, particularly women.

- follicular carcinoma – accounts for up to one in 10 cases and tends to affect middle-aged adults, particularly women.

- medullary thyroid carcinoma – accounts for less than one in 10 cases; unlike the other types, it can run in families.

- anaplastic thyroid carcinoma – the rarest and most serious type, accounting for around one in 50 cases; it usually affects people over the age of 60.

Read more: 'Harmless' spot on mum's nose turned out to be skin cancer

Symptoms of thyroid cancer

Symptoms of thyroid cancer can include:

  • a painless lump or swelling in the front of the neck – although only one in 20 neck lumps are cancer

  • swollen glands in the neck

  • unexplained hoarseness that does not get better after a few weeks

  • a sore throat that does not get better

  • difficulty swallowing

Medullary thyroid cancer can cause some more unusual symptoms, including frequent loose bowel movements or going red in the face (flushing). These are caused by too much of the hormone calcitonin, made by the medullary thyroid cancer cells.

All of the above symptoms could also potentially be caused by less serious conditions, such as an enlarged thyroid, but experts recommend you get checked by your GP to rule out something more serious. 

Your GP will examine your neck and may organise a blood test to check how well your thyroid is working.

If it isn't clear what could be causing your symptoms, it is likely you'll be referred to a hospital specialist for more tests.

See your GP if you have any of the signs or symptoms of thyroid cancer. (Getty Images)
See your GP if you have any of the signs or symptoms of thyroid cancer. (Getty Images)

What is the treatment for thyroid cancer?

The NHS says thyroid cancer is usually treatable and in many cases can be cured completely, although it can sometimes come back after treatment.

Treatment will depend on the type of thyroid cancer you have and how far it has spread, but the main treatments include:

  • surgery – to remove part or all of the thyroid

  • radioactive iodine treatment – you swallow a radioactive substance that travels through your blood and kills the cancer cells

  • external radiotherapy – a machine is used to direct beams of radiation at the cancer cells to kill them

  • chemotherapy and targeted therapies – medicines used to kill cancer cells.

Watch: Love Island's Demi Jones 'scared and angry' following thyroid cancer diagnosis.

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