Why Simple Neck Check Could Make All The Difference In Increasing Chronic Kidney Disease Survival

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Do you know why whenever you go to the Nephrologist one of the first things that s/he does is put his/her hands under your chin and around the surface of your neck? Many people with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) believe that their doctor is looking for something associated with the common cold or flu, but swollen glands might actually lead to something much more serious. Your Nephrologist may be looking for abnormally large glands because they could indicate thyroid dysfunction. Kidney and thyroid function and dysfunction are interrelated. Some authors have reported associations between thyroid cancer and kidney tumors due to metastases (a tumor growth that spreads via lymph or blood to an area of the body remote from the primary tumor). Also, research data suggests that thyroid disorders can be used as a marker for survival in individuals with CKD.

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Approximately 60,220 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with thyroid cancer. It is a quiet cancer, in that one does not hear about it often, but it can strike anyone at any age including CKD patients. Women are thought to be at most risk as three in four of those newly diagnosed are female. The incidences of thyroid cancer are on the rise in the United States and the reason is unknown, but some factors associated with the disease are family history, being female, being over 40 and prior exposure  of the thyroid gland to radiation. Even more, reoccurrence of this lesser known cancer is as high as 30% which means survivors will be in for a lifetime of regular follow-up exams.

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It is a quiet disease because thyroid cancer typically does not cause glaring symptoms. As it progresses there may be some warning signs. CKD patients can discover thyroid cancer themselves by consistently checking for swollen lymph node(s) in your neck or a lump that can be felt through the skin on your neck. Also, if you have difficulty speaking, changes to your voice or increasing hoarseness you should bring it to you Nephrologist's attention immediately. Similarly, inform your Nephrologist if you have difficulty swallowing or pain in your throat or neck.

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If you find a thyroid nodule during a "neck check," it does not mean that you should panic or that you definitely have thyroid cancer. In fact, most thyroid nodules are benign. It does mean, however, that you should have more testing done to rule out thyroid cancer. There is only one type of thyroid cancer that is known to be aggressive (anaplastic thyroid cancer) and it is the least common, accounting for just 1%-2% of all cases. Once your thyroid cancer is detected and a course of treatment is determined, the 30 year survival rates are usually above 90%. In most cases a CKD patient will undergo surgery to remove most of the thyroid gland, and many are treated with thyroid hormone replacement therapy to normalize thyroid levels. In other cases radioactive iodine, radiation or chemotherapy are used. KidneyBuzz.com encourages all of our readers to make sure you remain at the highest level of  personal health you are able and do not let thyroid cancer sneak up on you to complicate your health condition. Make a simple neck check a part of your regular routine when showering, shaving, in preparation for bed or another part of your day. 

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"Thyroid Dysfunction and Kidney Disease." European Journal of Endcrinology.  

"Interactions between Thyroid Disorders and Kidney Disease." US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health