Posted on January 28, 2016

The recently-opened Thyroid Unit at Hamad General Hospital, a member of Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), has contributed greatly to prompt diagnosis and effective treatment for the growing number of patients with thyroid disorders. This is according to Dr. Mohammed Salem Al Hassan (pictured), Head of the Thyroid Unit, on the occasion of Thyroid Awareness Month, which aims to raise awareness about thyroid disease.

The number of patients seeking treatment at the Thyroid Unit increases by five to seven percent each year, according to Dr. Hassan. About 70 percent of the unit’s patients have thyroid nodules, in particular benign (non-cancerous) nodules. “Thyroid nodules can affect both males and females of different ages. A thyroid nodule is an abnormal growth of thyroid cells that forms a lump within the thyroid gland. This lump may appear in the throat or even in the front of the neck. Thyroid nodules are managed by partial or complete surgical removal of the thyroid (thyroid lobectomy),” he said.

The Thyroid Unit, which is staffed by a team of highly-skilled specialists, is planning to soon introduce a radiotherapy service for the management of thyroid gland disorders. The radiotherapy technique will be used post-operatively for patients with thyroid cancer where there is a large spread of tumors throughout the body, in order to kill any cancer cells that may remain after surgery. The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the base of the neck, just below the Adam's apple. The thyroid is responsible for producing hormones that help the body regulate its metabolism. It controls the rate of use of energy sourcesprotein synthesis, and controls the body's sensitivity to other hormones, by producing thyroid hormones.

When the thyroid does not work properly, it can cause the body’s system to speed up (hyperthyroidism) or slow down (hypothyroidism). Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism are common and are normally treated by medications. Signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism can include heart palpitations, appetite change, increased sweating, unexplained weight loss, muscle weakness, nervousness and mental disturbances. Symptoms of hypothyroidism can include fatigue, weakness, muscle cramps and aches, memory loss and weight gain. Untreated thyroid disorders can lead to other health problems such as obesity and diabetes.

Early detection of thyroid disorders is important as early access to treatment can prevent the development of additional health problems. Dr. Al Hassan advises seeking professional medical advice to anyone who experiences any of the symptoms mentioned above, and particularly when there is a family history of thyroid problems.