Did you know January is Thyroid Awareness Month? Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in your neck. It is one of your endocrine glands, which make hormones. Thyroid hormones control the rate of many activities in your body. These include how fast you burn calories and how fast your heart beats. All of these activities are your body’s metabolism.
As with any part of the body, problems can occur with your thyroid. Thyroid problems include:
- Goiter – a thyroid condition that causes a visibly enlarged thyroid gland, often causing difficulty swallowing or breathing.
- Hyperthyroidism – when your thyroid gland makes more thyroid hormones than your body needs. Symptoms include rapid weight loss, high blood pressure, anxiety and insomnia.
- Hypothyroidism – when your thyroid gland does not make enough thyroid hormones. Symptoms include weak or slow heartbeat; muscular weakness; constant fatigue; weight gain; depression; slow reflexes; sensitivity to cold; thick, puffy, or dry skin; slowed mental processes and poor memory; and constipation.
- Thyroid cancer – while there are five different types, most are very curable.
- Thyroid nodules – abnormal growths of thyroid tissue.
- Thyroiditis – inflammation of the thyroid gland.
Examining your neck can in some cases help you find lumps or enlargements that may point to certain thyroid conditions.
Newswise.com explains how to perform a thyroid neck self-exam:
- Use a mirror and focus on the lower middle area of your neck, above the collarbones, and below the Adam’s apple (larynx). Your thyroid gland is located in this area of your neck.
- While focusing on this area in the mirror, tip your head back.
- Take a drink of water and swallow.
- As you swallow, look at your neck. Check for any bulges or protrusions in this area when you swallow. Reminder: Don’t confuse the Adam’s apple with the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is located further down on your neck, closer to the collarbone. You may want to repeat this process several times.
- If you do see any bulges or protrusions in this area, see your physician. You may have an enlarged thyroid gland or a thyroid nodule and should be checked to determine whether cancer is present or if treatment for thyroid disease is needed.
If you have a history of thyroid cancer, your Quotacy agent will be able to recommend which carrier will be most favorable to your individual situation.
Thyroid Nodules and Life Insurance
Here are some facts from Endocrineweb.com about thyroid nodules:
- One in 12 to 15 young women has a thyroid nodule.
- One in 40 young men has a thyroid nodule.
- More than 95% of all thyroid nodules are benign (non-cancerous growths).
- Some are actually cysts, which are filled with fluid rather than thyroid tissue.
- Most people will develop a thyroid nodule by the time they are 50 years old.
- The incidence of thyroid nodules increases with age.
- 50% of 50 year olds will have at least one thyroid nodule.
- 60% of 60 year olds will have at least one thyroid nodule.
- 70% of 70 year olds will have at least one thyroid nodule.
When evaluating thyroid nodules, life insurance underwriters will look into an applicant’s family and medical history. It is very possible for an applicant to receive favorable underwriting outcomes even if there is a history of nodules. Some factors that can bring about positive life insurance offers include:
- No personal or family history of cancer
- Regular doctor follow-ups
- Nodule size is stable
Thyroid Cancer and Life Insurance
Thyroid cancer is the most common malignancy of the endocrine system. According to the National Cancer Institute, there are about 56,000 new cases of thyroid cancer in the U.S. each year. It’s more common to occur in women than in men.
The types of thyroid cancer are papillary, papillary-follicular, follicular, medullary, and anaplastic. The long-term prognosis varies with the cell type and the stage:
Papillary – This is the most common type. Papillary, papillary-follicular, and follicular are considered “differentiated” and have a good prognosis, particularly at ages 20 to 40. Unfavorable pathological subtypes of thyroid cancer include tall cell, columnar, solid (trabecular), clear cell, and diffuse sclerosing.
Follicular – This is the second most common type. Follicular cancer that is “widely invasive” (as opposed to “minimally invasive”) through the capsule or showing vascular invasion tends to be more aggressive at presentation. Hurthle (oxyphilic) and insular cancer are more aggressive forms of follicular cancer.
Medullary – This type makes up about 3% of thyroid cancer cases. Medullary cancer appears sporadically, as part of familial medullary cancer, or as part of multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN) 2a and 2b. Stage I medullary cancer has a good prognosis while higher stages do not.
Anaplastic – This type is the least common and has the highest mortality rate.
When life insurance underwriters are evaluating an applicant with a history of thyroid cancer, they will consider the following factors:
- Type of thyroid cancer
- Age of applicant
- Type of treatment and dates performed
- Any remission and for how long
- Any recurrence
- Any complications from treatment
Each life insurance company underwrites medical conditions a little differently. Below is an example of one life insurance company’s thyroid cancer underwriting guidelines:
- A preferred offering may be available after 10 years from treatment.
- Standard can be considered for lowest grade papillary tumor after 3 years from treatment.
- Standard can be considered for low to moderate papillary tumor 5-6 years following treatment.
- History of anaplastic tumor is declined.
If you have a history of thyroid cancer, your Quotacy agent will be able to recommend which carrier will be most favorable to your individual situation. Start the process by getting a term life insurance quote now. Your personal contact information is not required to see estimated premium pricing. Because of this you are able to window-shop in a private setting. Give us a try. We want to help you get life insurance and make the process as easy as possible.
Photo credit to: National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI)
About the writer
Writer, Editor, and Co-host of Quotacy's Q&A Fridays
Natasha is the content manager and editor for Quotacy. She has been in the life insurance industry since 2010 and has been making life insurance easier to understand with her writing since 2014. When not at work, she's probably studying and working toward her Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) designation while throwing a tennis ball for her pitbull mix, Emmett, or curled up on her couch watching Netflix. If it’s football season, the Packers game will be on. Connect with her on LinkedIn.