Nearly 2,000 people in Britain are diagnosed with thyroid cancer but the outlook can be good when diagnosed early

Just months after her landslide election victory last October, Argentinian president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner – dubbed the next Eva Peron – is having treatment for thyroid cancer. The 58-year-old had surgery last week and the good news for her and the 1,800 Britons diagnosed with the condition each year is that the outlook is generally good when the cancer is caught early.

President Fernandez of Argentina was undergoing treatment for thyroid cancer but it was announced on Saturday she did not actually have the disease

President Fernandez of Argentina was undergoing treatment for thyroid cancer but it was announced on Saturday she did not actually have the disease

What and where is the thyroid

It’s a gland in the front of the neck which produces hormones that control metabolism. There are four diferent types of thyroid cancer, each requiring different treatment. The most common kind is papillary cancer, the type President Fernandez has been diagnosed with.

I’ve got thyroid problems. Am I at risk

An overactive or underactive thyroid do not increase risk. But some factors do – such as family history or previous radiotherapy to the neck region. Other benign thyroid diseases can also increase your chances.

What are the early signs of thyroid cancer

There may be no signs in the early stages. As this is a slow-growing tumour, a small painless lump in the thyroid may be the only sign for a long time. Other later signs are neck pain, throat pain, a change in the voice or difficulty swallowing.

Is it easily treated

The outlook for thyroid cancer is excellent compared with many cancers as they are slow-growing and can normally be removed through surgery. The prognosis of any cancer depends on the size of tumour when it is diagnosed and whether it has spread. Reports suggest that in the case of the Argentinian president, it has not spread.

Is a lump in the thyroid always cancer

Non-malignant thyroid lumps are much more common than cancerous ones: we call these benign thyroid tumours and almost half of adults will have one. Of all thyroid lumps that a GP will see, only one in 20 will be cancerous. However, although it is more likely the lump will be benign, all thyroid lumps will be investigated in case there is a cancer. This involves blood tests and an ultrasound scan.