How to Do a Thyroid Neck Check

As many as 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease of which 60 percent are undiagnosed. Women are especially affected, with nearly five times the number of cases compared to men. All told, women have a nearly one in eight chance of getting a thyroid disorder during the course of her lifetime.

Early detection is key to successfully treating any thyroid problem you may encounter. To help with this, you can do a self-exam known simply as the "neck check."

Performing this at-home examination can help you find lumps or enlargements that may point to any number of thyroid conditions from nodules and goiter to thyroid cancer.


Stand in Front of Your Mirror

Stand in front of a mirror so that you can see your neck without obstruction. Take off any scarf, necktie, jewelry, or turtleneck. Alternately, you can use a hand mirror, focusing on the lower front portion of your neck.


Stretch Your Neck Back

Stretch your neck back, pointing your chin toward the ceiling. In terms of what you are looking for, the thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped organ located in the lower front of the neck, situated just above your clavicle (collarbone) and below your larynx (voice box).


Take a Sip of Water

With your neck stretched back, take a sip water and swallow. This action will move the larynx forward and help expose any irregularities on the thyroid.


Look for Enlargements as You Swallow

As you swallow, look for any enlargements, lumps, or protrusions. Do confuse your thyroid with your Adam's apple, the latter of which is an extension of the larynx made up of thyroid cartilage. The thyroid rests below the larynx and Adam's apple.

If you are unsure, repeat the process again, swallowing another mouthful of water. What you are looking for are static or moving bumps.

Thyroid nodules are usually round in shape and move with the gland when you swallow. You may feel it rolling beneath your fingertips or see it move when you swallow. A goiter (swelling) can be found on one side of the thyroid and occasionally on both.


Feel the Area for Bumps and Enlargement

Feel the area around the thyroid to see if you can detect any enlargement, bumps, or protrusions. Too often when people start feeling for the thyroid, their fingers are nowhere near the gland.

To differentiate between the thyroid and the other structures of your neck:

  1. Slide your finger down the midline of your neck The first hard structure you will hit is the thyroid cartilage leading to the Adam's apple.
  2. As you continue to move your finger downward, you will next encounter another bit of cartilage called the cricoid ring which encircles the trachea (windpipe).
  3. Two digits below this is the thyroid isthmus (the tissue that connects the two lobes). To each side of this are your thyroid glands.

See Your Doctor If You Find Any Abnormalities

If you find lumps or protrusions of any sort, see your physician. You may have an enlarged thyroid or a thyroid nodule that require further evaluation.

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Article Sources
  • U.S. National Library of Medicine. "Thyroid Diseases." MedLine Plus. Bethesda, Maryland; 2017; OMB Control Number: 0925-0648.