This photograph shows a little known symptom of thyroid cancer

Lorna Nickson Brown

Actor and producer Lorna Nickson Brown was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in early 2015 after the appearance of a lump on the front of her throat.

Speaking to indy100, she said:

My mum noticed a lump on the front left side of my neck. She thought I lost a bit of weight, but three months later I visited the GP who confirmed that it was a thyroid nodule.

Thyroid nodules can be common and harmless. Nevertheless Lorna’s one was larger than normal and felt hard to the touch, so they pursued it.

Four months of scans later she had a biopsy – a sample of the nodule was taken and examined – and the results came back that it was cancerous.

I felt numb. I didn’t believe it because I felt so well. At the time I was optioned for a Golden Globe-nominated TV series.

This isn’t what I thought cancer looked like. The minute you tell people, it’s the cancer face. I didn’t feel ill.

In the image her brother had taken (on the left) the lump was hiding in plain sight.

Picture:Picture: Lorna Nickson Brown

Immediately following the diagnosis she was taken to meet Des McGuire, a councillor and nurse funded by Birmingham charity Get A-Head.

That has been the difference for me, having him there.

Google is so scary. He said to me, you have a choice – you can Google thyroid cancer and freak yourself out or you can ask me.

Select your sources. He gave me recommended things to read. It’s about selecting those correct sources. I had somebody- in the middle of the night I would send him an email filled with questions and he answered every single one. 

After speaking with her "amazing" oncologist John Watkinson at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, they decided that she would have a partial thyroidectomy – the left side of her thyroid with the cancerous nodule, was removed.

Although she occasionally gets tired, having a part of her thyroid intact means she does not have to take the life-long drug Thyroxine.

How can friends and family support people who are suffering from thyroid – or any other cancer?

There’s no right way. In my own experience just knowing that I can be open and talk about that word with someone, where it’s not all a negative association.

We don’t speak openly about illness so you can feel quite isolated. It can feel quite lonely.

Other symptoms of thyroid cancer include:

  • A neck lump which feels firm, doesn’t move easily under the skin or grows over time
  • Swollen neck glands
  • Unexplained hoarseness of the voice that doesn’t improve over weeks
  • A sore throat that doesn’t improve over weeks
  • Unexplained pain in the neck
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Breathing difficulties.

Because of the innocuous nature of this particular type of cancer, if you suffer one or more of these symptoms, visit a GP.

I think everyone should have someone like Des – no matter the illness. Mental health in patients – especially patients with cancer is so overlooked.

My ability to lead a better life is the fact that I had psychological support from day one. 

Lorna has been clear of the cancer for over a year.

Lorna will be running a marathon in April to raise money for Get-A-Head, and you can donate towards the marathon and the charity here.

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