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Thyroid Awareness Month Q&A with Dr. Anthony J. Cannon

January 17, 2019Dr. Anthony Cannon

A graduate of Weill Cornell Medical College, Anthony J. Cannon, MD, completed his fellowship locally at Temple University Hospital and has been a practicing endocrinologist for more than 30 years. Dr. Cannon is the founder and President of the Thyroid Club of South Jersey, and he joined Jefferson Health’s New Jersey team in February 2018.

In honor of January being Thyroid Awareness Month, Dr. Cannon, whose mantra is, “I’ve never met a thyroid I didn’t like,” shared the following information to help ensure a better understanding of the power of the thyroid:

Q: What is the thyroid?

A: The thyroid serves as a “drill sergeant” that tells your organs what to do and how to do it. The thyroid hormone affects every organ in the body. For example, the velocity and frequency of heart contractions may be controlled in part by the thyroid. The thyroid is also the second most important gland or tissue in the body, second to the brain, in terms of blood flow.

Q: Where is the thyroid located?

A: Many people think that the thyroid is located near the lymph nodes, but it has nothing to do with the upper neck. It’s in the center of the lower neck, and it’s shaped like a bowtie or butterfly. You may be able to feel the U-shaped thyroid notch – the isthmus, which connects the left and right lobe.

Q: What are the most common thyroid conditions?

A: The most common thyroid condition is hypothyroidism, followed by thyroid nodular disease and hyperthyroidism. Hypothyroidism, or thyroid failure, occurs when the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone, slowing down the metabolism. Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune disease in which antibodies destroy the thyroid directly, is the most common cause.

Thyroid nodular disease can coexist in a patient with hypothyroidism. A thyroid tumor is called a nodule, and it can be benign or malignant. Thyroid nodules generally have a five percent risk for cancer.

Hyperthyroidism causes the thyroid to release excessive amounts of thyroid hormone. Graves’ disease, the No. 1 cause of hyperthyroidism in the country, is an autoimmune disease in which antibodies overstimulate and indirectly destroy the thyroid.

Q: Who is at risk for thyroid conditions?

A: Thyroid conditions typically develop in individuals over the age of 50, but they can occur at any age. A family history of thyroid conditions may increase this risk. Gender, however, is the primary risk factor: women are 5 to 8 times more likely to have a thyroid condition. This is because women are more likely to have autoimmune diseases.

Q: What is unique about thyroid treatment at Jefferson Health in New Jersey?

A: Time matters. Words matter. Our endocrinologists spend a lot of time talking with our patients, not at them. Our job is to be as informative as possible, without being overwhelming. We can’t give patients explanations they can’t understand. We don’t want anyone walking out of our office and not coming back to receive proper care.

Q: What advice can you give someone who thinks they may have a thyroid condition?

A: Avoid self-diagnosing yourself with inaccurate online information. If you are looking online, make sure the information is vetted by a committee of professionals, such as WebMD, Mayo Clinic or the American Thyroid Association. Also, make sure your provider does a neck evaluation during your physical exams.

Q: Why is thyroid awareness important?

A: Thyroid conditions affect more people than you may know. It’s estimated that more than 20 million Americans have a thyroid condition, and up to 60 percent of them aren’t aware of it. That is over 7 percent of the U.S. population – a considerable amount of people living with a particular disorder. It’s important to know the status of your thyroid health, because thyroid dysfunction can attack multiple other organ systems, causing a variety of ailments.

The endocrinology team at Jefferson Health in New Jersey provides personalized, compassionate care to improve the lives of patients living with endocrine-related disorders. For more information on endocrinology services offered, click here. To learn more about the three common thyroid conditions, click here