Market Deeping mum’s warning after cancer diagnosis aged just 31

A mum of three from Market Deeping has urged people to make sure they check their neck for lumps after she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer aged just 31.

Monday, 14th June 2021, 5:00 am
Updated Monday, 14th June 2021, 5:52 am

Claire Virge noticed something was wrong when she was on a video call at BGL in Peterborough where she works.

She contacted her GP who referred her for further tests and she was diagnosed with two types of thyroid cancer, papillary and follicular.

She said: “I was on a video call with a colleague when I found this lump purely by accident.

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Claire Virge
Claire Virge

“I had been taking tablets for my skin and at first I thought maybe it was a side effect. I called my GP who made an urgent referral to the hospital. After various tests and scans I was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer. I was booked in for surgery a week later to have my thyroid removed, where they discovered I actually had two forms of thyroid cancer.”

The thyroid gland is a small butterfly shaped gland in the neck, in front of the windpipe. One of its main functions is to produce hormones that help regulate the body’s metabolism.

The symptoms of thyroid cancer include having a painless lump or swelling, swollen glands, sore throat and difficulty swallowing.

Claire’s thyroid was removed in February and she is now waiting to start treatment to kill any remaining cancerous cells.

Claire has been given vital support from her family - husband Robbie and children Sienna (13), Zach (10) and 19 month old Rosie - over the past few months as she has battled the condition - but the fight has taken its toll on her loved ones as well as her.

Claire said: “The last few months have been horrendous for me and my family. 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. Looking back at pictures I believe I had the lump in my neck for nearly a year.”

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 single day and, worryingly, in the last decade thyroid cancer cases in the UK have increased by 68 per cent and are projected to rise by 74 per cent.

Claire, 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.”

There are a number of factors that may increase your risk of developing thyroid cancer - exposure to radiation, family history and weight. When diagnosed at an early stage nearly all people with thyroid will survive their disease for one year or more.