Anchor Allison Latos shares experience battling thyroid cancer

CHARLOTTE — September is Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month, and many of Channel 9′s viewers have followed anchor Allison Latos' recent battle with the disease.

Jan. 29 was like many other days at work for Latos as she anchored that day’s newscasts. After it ended, she listened to a voicemail from a viewer that helped save her life.

“I believe I noticed a lump to the right of center in your throat,” Karen Goodman, of Lincoln County, said. “I just wanted to let you know that as you swallowed, I thought I saw a lump there, and you might want to take a look or get it looked at.”

Latos said she was stunned and never noticed it. The anchor was four months pregnant, so she immediately mentioned it to her OBGYN doctor.

Latos' blood work came back normal, so she thought she was OK.

She and her husband experienced the heartbreaking loss of their newborn daughter, Hannah, in May. Latos said that’s when she began to worry about everything.

The lump was brought up again over the summer during a conversation with family, so she contacted her primary care physician for another checkup.

An ultrasound and biopsy revealed that the lump was papillary carcinoma of the thyroid cancer.

“Women who are pregnant, as was your case, often the thyroid nodule or thyroid cancer may get bigger during pregnancy,” said Dr. Kristen Wagner, Latos' surgeon.

Wagner said about 50,000 people get diagnosed with thyroid cancer every year, and 75% of them are women.

“Women are more likely to see a doctor,” Wagner said. “They’re going to their gynecologist, and a good one will feel your neck.”

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Possible signs of thyroid cancer include:

  • Lump
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Choking sensation while lying down

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Labs that check if someone’s thyroid is working properly will not detect cancer.

“You could have a huge thyroid cancer, and the thyroid may be functioning fine,” Wagner said.

There are no genetic causes of thyroid cancer -- it often happens spontaneously.

Wagner said if someone’s first-degree relative has been diagnosed, if they have been exposed to excessive radiation or if they are obese, there is a greater chance they will get the disease.

There are four types of thyroid cancer, but the most common one, papillary, is what Latos was diagnosed with. It is treatable through surgery and, sometimes, radioactive iodine.

The five-year survival rate for that is over 99% if it is contained to the thyroid and the lymph nodes in the neck.

“Now, every single day, I’m so thankful for the way my daughter, Hannah, likely helped make this lump more visible,” Latos said. “And that viewer, Karen Goodman, had the courage to call me.”

“It has to be divine intervention, Allison,” Goodman told Latos. “What made me even see it. You don’t owe me anything. I give the credit to the Lord. Just thank Him because He had to reveal it to me.”

Approximately 5% of thyroid nodules are cancerous.

Fortunately for Latos, the cancer has not spread.