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Catching thyroid problems early

Issues detected early can usually be treated with synthetic hormones

HOUSTON – Most days, Jane Hixson is looking after her two young children. She was so focused and so busy that it took her hairdresser to notice the abnormal growth in her neck.

"It looks like an Adam's apple, and I thought my neck is thin, and I'm getting older, maybe I don't know. But then I realize it wasn't in the middle, and I hadn't noticed it until I went and got my hair cut," Hixson said.

Hixson said once she saw it, she couldn't un-see it and knew she had to get it checked out.

"It's good to be proactive in any area of your life, especially about your health, and for me, I have people who depend on me," she said. "I have a really wonderful husband, and I love my kids, and I want to be the best version of myself, which includes being the most healthy version of myself for that."

Dr. Tod Huntley said the thyroid has an important role in how people feel and how their body functions.

"The thyroid gland is the gland in the neck that makes the gasoline that runs the body," Huntley said. "Thyroid hormone is critical for every function in the body. Too much thyroid hormone and you can be nervous, anxious, jittery and hot all the time. Hypothyroidism, on the other hand, when you get too little hormone, is manifested by tired, fatigue, blah, weight gain, just hair falling out. A visible mass in the neck should definitely be looked at."

Thyroid conditions affect women more than men. It's more common in women in their 50s and 60s. Symptoms tend to develop slowly over a number of years.

After an ultrasound, Huntley removed Hixson's growth surgically.

"The tumor was right there, and it's no longer present," he said.

If anyone is starting to have symptoms, like fatigue and unusual weight gain, ask a doctor to run a thyroid function test. Any issues detected early can usually be treated with synthetic hormones.