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Market Deeping mum of three urges people to check for thyroid cancer

A mum of three is warning others of a rare cancer after having a tumour removed from her neck.

Claire Virge, 32, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer earlier this year after discovering a lump while she was taking part in a virtual meeting.

Thyroid cancer is rare, with about 3,400 people in this country diagnosed with the condition each year, according to Macmillan Cancer Support. The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck which produces hormones.

Claire Virge is raising awareness of thyroid cancer
Claire Virge is raising awareness of thyroid cancer

Claire, who lives in Market Deeping with husband Robbie and children Sienna, 13, Zach, 10, and 20-month-old Rosie is now sharing her story to raise awareness of the condition, which is treatable and can be cured.

She said: “I’m sharing my story to raise awareness of the importance of checking your neck, in the hope it will benefit other women my age.

“I have had so many messages from people telling me they never thought about checking their neck and this would now be part of their routine – which is great to hear.

“When it’s so simple, there’s no reason not to. I am hoping to replicate similar breast-checking campaigns and get more people checking their neck regularly.”

Claire, who works as a corporate social responsbility manager, first felt the lump while in a meeting in December.

She said: “I didn’t notice it at all but looking back at pictures from this time last year and I can see it.”

She then booked an appointment with her GP and after a number of tests was told that she had papillary form of the disease, which predominately affects people under the age of 40.

Later Clare and Robbie learned that she also had the follicular form of the condition.

She said: “Finding out was horrific. Because of covid I would have had to learn life-changing news on my own.

“I asked them to call me so I could be with my husband.”

Surgeons removed Claire’s thyroid and the lump in February and she was due to start radioactive iodine therapy at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge this week.

Ahead of this treatment, Claire is on a special diet before taking an liquid with radioisotopes.

She said: “I stay away from my children, especially my 20 month-old daughter. Hopefully I won’t have to repeat this but I will have to have tests afterwards.

“I won’t get the ‘all clear’ for five years.”

Thyroid cancer is most likely to affect people in their 30s or 60s and is two to three times more prevalent in women, according to the NHS.

Ten people in the UK are diagnosed with thyroid cancer every day and in the past decade cases in the UK have increased by 68 per cent and are projected to rise.

“The last few months have been horrendous for me and my family,” said Claire.

“For years it has been drilled into women to check our breasts - I even have monthly text reminders from CoppaFeel. No-one ever told me to check my neck - I hadn’t even heard of thyroid cancer.

“When I was Googling my symptoms, thyroid cancer wasn’t even mentioned.”

Symptoms of thyroid cancer

Thyroid cancer is a rare form of cancer affecting the thyroid gland, which is at the base of the neck and helps regulate a person’s metabolism and calcium levels.

The most common symptom of the cancer is a painless lump or swelling in the neck.

Other symptoms tend to occur after the condition has reached an advanced stage, and may include:

  • hoarseness that lasts for more than a few weeks
  • a sore throat or difficulty swallowing that doesn’t get better
  • a lump elsewhere in your neck

Only about one in 20 thyroid lumps are cancerous.

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