Thyroid Cancer and Broken Collar Bone -- An Accidental Lifesaver

A true story of how a patient's bike accident led to the discovery of thyroid cancer

By Laura Lee Bloor
MedicineNet.com

Reviewed by William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

When Ken Brown,* of Orange County, California, broke his left collarbone (clavicle) in a dirt-bike accident, he never imagined it might help save his life.

Ken went to Jawbone Desert, California, with a group of friends to ride dirt bikes. The getaway weekend took a turn for the worse when Ken wrecked his bike while going about 60 mph. Ken was lucky that his only injury was the broken collarbone.

The emergency room doctor prescribed hydrocodone/acetaminophen (Vicodin) to manage Ken's pain until he could be seen by a surgeon who specialized in shoulders. Within a week of the accident, Ken had surgery to repair his clavicle, using a plate and screws.

The surgery went smoothly, or so Ken thought, until he started experiencing numbness in his pinky finger afterward. Over the next couple of weeks, the numbness traveled up his elbow and caused painful muscle spasms in his arm and back.

Brown went to his doctor who determined that he did not have carpal tunnel syndrome but couldn't find an explanation for the numbness. He referred Ken to a neurologist.

Within the next few days, Ken visited the neurologist who ordered a spinal MRI scan of his neck. When the neurologist contacted Ken about his MRI results, he asked if Ken was aware of a lump in the front of his neck (his thyroid area). "No," Ken said. The neurologist was concerned about the lump, known as a nodule, especially with its large size of 3 cm.