Health Watch: Spotting thyroid problems

ORLANDO, Fla. -- According to the American Thyroid Association, about 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease, but up to 60 percent don't know it. Deborah Norville was one of them. Could you be one of them? Learn what to look out for when it comes to your thyroid.

This tiny gland in your neck controls your metabolism, regulates your body temp, keeps your heart pumping, affects how you breathe, and lots more! It's called your thyroid. And, more than 12 percent of Americans will develop a thyroid problem at some point in their lives. Some common conditions: an underactive thyroid, an overactive thyroid, or even thyroid cancer.

Gary Clayman, MD, Thyroid surgeon, Tampa General Hospital said, "It's clearly on the rise unlike most other malignancies that are actually decreasing in incidence."

Some signs to watch out for: weight gain or weight loss, a fast or slow heartbeat, energy or mood changes, hair loss, feeling too hot or cold, fatigue, and swelling in your neck - which could be a goiter or nodule. These lumps are especially common in women.

"If you're a woman and you live long enough, you will develop thyroid nodules," Dr. Clayman continued.

You can spot an enlarged thyroid by doing a mirror check. Simply tip your head back, take a drink of water, and as you swallow, examine your neck below your Adam's apple and above your collarbone. If you see a bulge or lump, make sure your doctor checks it out right away.

Although thyroid cancer is on the rise, it's still a rare cancer. Only about five percent of thyroid nodules turn out to be cancerous. Treatment options for thyroid disorders depend on your particular condition but usually involve medications, and sometimes, surgery.