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Fan told Deborah Norville to check for thyroid cancer. How can you spot it?

Deborah Norville attends the "Whitney" New York Screening at the Whitby Hotel on June 27, 2018 in New York City. | Theo Wargo/Getty Images

If it weren’t for observant and concerned fans of “Inside Edition” and HGTV’s “Flip or Flop,” Deborah Norville and Tarek El Moussa’s thyroid cancer might have gone unchecked.

In a video announcement Monday, Norville said she would undergo surgery to remove a cancerous thyroid nodule first pointed out by a viewer.

“We live in a world of see something, say something, and I’m really glad we do,” she said in a video announcement posted on the show’s official YouTube account.

The nodule was later determined cancerous by doctors.

“The doctor says it’s a very localized form of cancer, which tomorrow, I’ll have surgery to have removed,” Norville said in the video post. “There will be no chemo, I’m told no radiation; but I will have surgery and I’ll be away for a bit, so Diane [McInerney] will be holding down the fort.”

The television host asked for prayers for herself and her surgeon ahead of the procedure, encouraging viewers to “tune in to ‘Inside Edition’ every day” despite her absence.

A similar situation happened to Moussa, when a registered nurse watching “Flip or Flop” in 2013 wrote show producers that he should get the lump on his neck checked out. It was in fact cancer.

It’s not uncommon for these cancerous nodules to go unnoticed, because there are rarely symptoms that impact daily life and lumps grow slowly over many months, Dr. Eric Moore, professor of head and neck surgery at Mayo Clinic told USA TODAY.

How do you know if you should get your thyroid checked? Here are a few tips:

Where is the lump?

Large thyroid nodules will present in the middle of the neck, just below the Adam’s apple. Lumps on the side of the neck are usually lymph nodes.

How big is it?

If it’s big enough to see or feel, usually bigger than a centimeter in diameter, it should be investigated, Moore said. Tell a physician about the lump to see if additional tests are needed.

What does it feel like?

Cancerous lumps feel firm and hard, while benign or non-cancerous lumps usually feel soft. More than half of thyroid lumps are non-cancerous, Moore said.

Often, people won’t feel any other symptoms. Breathing or swallowing won’t be affected. Only in rare cases of advanced thyroid cancer, people will start to feel that something isn’t right. For example, the cancer could spread outside the thyroid and affect nearby vocal chords, Moore said, causing people to sound hoarse.

Who is most affected by thyroid cancer?

Women over age 40 are most at risk for thyroid cancer, Moore said, although it can affect men and women of all age groups.

About 2,170 people die from thyroid cancer annually, according to the American Cancer Society.

How is thyroid cancer treated?

Cancerous thyroid nodules can be surgically removed. Depending on the location and amount of nodules, part or all of the thyroid might also need to be removed. If doctors remove the entire thyroid, a patient will be given a hormone pill they will need to take for life. Radioactive iodine therapy might also be used. Chemotherapy is rarely needed for thyroid cancer, the American Cancer Society notes.

“Thyroid cancer in the vast majority of cases is not far advanced nor highly aggressive,” Moore said. Many people who are diagnosed are “being cured and living a healthy life.”

Ashley May, USA TODAY

Read more at usatoday.com