Health

Clare Balding health: The sign on your neck that could signal the presenter’s past disease


Clare Balding’s warm and funny personality shines through in her sports coverage, which includes reporting from six olympic games and presenting BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

Despite her positive energy, the presenter has been been through some dark times too.

In 2009, Clare announced she had thyroid cancer , revealing she had her thyroid gland removed and would undergo radioactive iodine treatment that same year.

In 2011, Clare gave an update BBC Radio 2’s French and Saunders programme, revealing she had been given the all-clear for thyroid cancer.

She told French and Saunders that she needed no more treatment since having a lymph node removed before Christmas.

Clare said: “I had to have a little operation just before Christmas to take out a nasty little lymph node and there was a worry that I might have to have more treatment.

But I had a lovely letter from my oncologist just after Christmas saying, ‘Hurrah, no more treatment’, so I’m very happy about that.”

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A painless lump or swelling in the front of the neck is a symptom of thyroid cancer – although only one in 20 neck lumps are cancer, notes the NHS.

Neck lumps are common and are more likely to be caused by a less serious condition, such as an enlarged thyroid (goitre).

How to tell a neck lump is cancerous

As the NHS points out, a neck lump is more likely to be cancer if it:

  • Feels firm
  • Does not move around easily under the skin
  • Gets bigger over time
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“See a GP if you have a swelling or lump at the front of your neck. While it’s unlikely to be cancer, it’s important to get it checked,” advised the health body.

Other symptoms of thyroid cancer include:

  • Swollen glands in the neck
  • Unexplained hoarseness that does not get better after a few weeks
  • A sore throat that does not get better
  • Pain in your neck
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty breathing

In rare cases, thyroid cancer can affect the production of thyroid hormones and cause diarrhoea and flushing, notes the NHS.

These symptoms can be caused by other conditions, but it’s a good idea to see a GP if you develop any persistent symptoms that you’re worried about, advises the health site.

A GP will examine your neck and can organise a blood test to check how well your thyroid is working.

Who is at risk?

Although it is not known what causes most thyroid cancers, there are some factors that might increase your risk of developing it.

According to Cancer Research UK, the risk of developing thyroid cancer is estimated to be four times higher for people with a first degree relative with thyroid cancer, than people in the general population.

Thyroid cancer is also more common in people who had radiotherapy treatment, particularly in people treated with radiotherapy when they were children, explains the charity.

Other risk factors include:

  • Other thyroid conditions, such as an inflamed thyroid (thyroiditis) or goitre – but not an overactive thyroid or underactive thyroid
  • Obesity
  • A bowel condition called familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) acromegaly – a rare condition where the body produces too much growth hormone
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