KUMC Thyroid Cancer Center provides rapid and accurate diagnosis, and efficient treatment of thyroid disease.
1. Location and Shape of the Thyroid Gland
We sometimes hear about the thyroid gland, which is not a disease, but a part of your body. It is located in the lower part of the neck, surrounding the periphery of the breathing tube (trachea) under the protruding cartilage (thyroid) in the middle of the neck. The thyroid gland is similar in appearance to a butterfly with its widespread wings. One wing is about 2 cm width and about 5 cm in length, and the both sides weigh about 15~20 g.
2. Normal Thyroid
The thyroid gland is located in the front of the neck. It is normally hidden and impalpable. When a disease is affecting the thyroid gland, it is often manifests itself, and becomes enlarged and palpable. However, even if the thyroid gland has no abnormalities, it can be felt in a slim young woman with a long neck. It may also appear prominent if it is located above the normal site. The growth of the thyroid gland varies depending on the disease. In many cases, the thyroid gland grows as a whole, but only one side may grow, and the thyroid gland may become prominent due to a lump (nodule).
3. Role of the Thyroid Gland
The thyroid gland secretes thyroid hormones. Different hormones are secreted in our body to keep us safe against external environmental changes and to function smoothly. The thyroid hormone, which is one of the hormones that are released in our bodies, is essential for us to live and it has the ability to regulate the metabolic rate of our bodies. Similar to the briquette fire burning quickly with an open fire hole and burning slowly with a closed fire hole, if there is more than the normal amount of thyroid hormone, the food that we eat burns out quickly, thereby generating excessive heat. The result is a body that is getting hotter, sweating profusely, and losing weight. Other symptoms are the autonomic nerves being stimulated, thus making the heart beat faster, speeding up the stomach's movements, which lead to frequent stool or sometimes diarrhea, and the nerves becoming more sensitive, with possible trembling of the limbs and feet. Meanwhile, a low secretion of thyroid hormones reduces our body's metabolism, reduces the development of fever, causes coldness with less sweating, and increases weight with swollen face, hands, and feet even with a digestion of less food. When the autonomic nerves become dull, the pulse slows down, gastrointestinal motility slows down, which causes constipation, and mental activity slows down, eventually resulting in memory loss.
4. Diseases of the Thyroid Gland
Various diseases can present themselves in the thyroid gland just like in the other organs. Since the thyroid gland produces thyroid hormones, it is very common to cause abnormalities in the thyroid gland. Hyperthyroidism is the secretion of excessive thyroid hormone, whereas hypothyroidism is the secretion of insufficient thyroid hormone. Simple goiter is the result of the enlargement of the thyroid gland, but the thyroid hormone secretion remains normal. When the thyroid gland is partially enlarged and a lump is formed, it is called a thyroid nodule or thyroid tumor. There are various causes of thyroid nodules; however, most of them are benign tumors (benign nodules), which do not actually interfere with a person's health or thyroid hormone secretion. A malignant tumor is cancerous mass, and thyroid cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world. A cyst, like a benign tumor, does not cause any kind of health problems.