Close-up of Sofia Vergara

Sofia Vergara, actor and star of Modern Family, spoke at the Stand Up To Cancer live event on Saturday, August 21, 2021. Co-executive producers were Jim Toth and Reese Witherspoon. Cohosts, along with Sofia Vergara, included Ken Jeong, Tran Ho, and Anthony Anderson. Katie Couric, a co-founder, made an appearance as a special guest. In addition, Stevie Wonder, Common, Simone Ledward Boseman, and Brittany Howard gave performances. This was the seventh Stand Up To Cancer event, which takes place every other year. The organization raises awareness and funds for cancer research and new treatments.

According to Forbes Magazine, Sofia Vergara is the highest-paid actress in the world. She is currently on America’s Got Talent, where she earns 8 figures a year. She also has a line of jeans at Walmart, a furniture line at Rooms to Go, and several different perfumes. In addition, Vergara finished filming for Modern Family in 2020, the role that made her incredibly famous.

However, it hasn’t always been big money and fame for Vergara. The Hollywood star has had a cancer scare.

Sofia Vergara’s cancer diagnosis

Sofia Vergara sitting on the ground next to her Hollywood star

At the Stand Up To Cancer live event, Sofia Vergara talked about the thyroid cancer diagnosis she received when she was just 28 years old at a routine doctor checkup, according to People Magazine. Her doctor noticed a lump in her throat and ordered "a lot of tests," Vergara said. Her doctor then told her she had thyroid cancer. She was worried but tried not to panic. Instead, she decided to get educated about thyroid cancer, reading every book she could find on the subject. She was happy to have the support of her doctor and her family.

Fortunately for Vergara, the cancer was caught early. She said she learned a lot about thyroid cancer and that "in times of crises, we’re better together." She went on to say that in order to end cancer, it has to be a team effort.

Vergara kept her thyroid cancer diagnosis a secret at first. Here’s why.

Sofia Vergara’s secret cancer diagnosis

Different colored cancer awareness ribbons placed in a circle

Vergara talked to Health in 2011 about her diagnosis. She spoke about how her five siblings have type 1 diabetes and know they have to deal with daily injections. She took her son to an endocrinologist to get checked out because of the family history of diabetes. While there, the doctor was concerned and wanted to check her as well. That’s when the doctor found a lump in her neck.

She was initially skeptical, especially about having her thyroid gland removed, because she wasn’t experiencing any symptoms. In addition, she was worried that the surgery is dangerous. For example, if the doctor made a mistake, she could lose her ability to speak or the mobility in her face. But she did it. She kept it a secret because she didn’t want to deal with anything else while going through this. Her son was about 10 at the time, and they lived in Miami, close to her mom and some siblings, who helped out during this difficult time.

So, what is thyroid cancer?

What is thyroid cancer?

Woman in gray shirt touching the sides of her neck

The American Cancer Society explains that thyroid cancer starts in the thyroid gland, where cancer cells grow "out of control." The thyroid gland creates hormones that help regulate your body temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, and metabolism. The thyroid gland is located in the front of your neck, where it wraps around your trachea. It has two lobes on either side, and the smaller front part is called the isthmus.

The American Cancer Society notes that its shaped like a butterfly. There are four different types of cells in the thyroid gland — C cells, follicular cells, immune system cells, and supportive cells. Cancer can grow from any of these, creating a tumor that, when left untreated, can grow to other parts of the body.

Sofia Vergara explained that she had to have surgery to have her thyroid gland removed, and she now has to take a Synthroid pill every morning for life (via Health). The medication does what the thyroid gland would typically do. Per WebMD, Synthroid is a thyroid replacement treatment. However, Vergara said some cancer remained after her surgery, so she received iodine radiation to get rid of it.

Thyroid cancer surgery recovery

Four doctors and nurses wearing blue gowns, face masks, hair nets, and white gloves holding surgical tools

According to Health, Vergara now has to have a blood test every three months to ensure her thyroid levels are normal. She says she feels fortunate because hers was found early, so the doctors could remove the tumor and treat the remaining cancer.

Vergara explains that she couldn’t drive for two months after surgery. "Your life stops for a while,’ she told Health. She said she had a scar, but treatments like cortisone injections and laser made it less noticeable.

She said she changed her diet dramatically at first but relaxed it because "no one can live like this." She explained no one knows how anyone gets cancer, so it may not have been her diet. But, she said, "When you go through something like this, it’s hard, but you learn a lot from it. Your priorities change. You don’t sweat the small stuff. And it had a good ending."

So, what should you do if you think you might have thyroid cancer?

Thyroid cancer symptoms

Woman in polka dot shirt grimacing with hand on side of her neck

The Mayo Clinic recommends seeing your doctor if you have any signs or symptoms of thyroid cancer. Sofia Vergara didn’t have any symptoms, which is why it is so crucial that you see your primary care physician at least once a year for a complete checkup. Her cancer would have gotten worse if that doctor didn’t check her that day.

Symptoms are neck pain, trouble swallowing, hoarseness, voice changes, a lump in your neck, or swollen lymph nodes in your neck. Any of these symptoms are a cause for concern. Your doctor will feel your neck and order some blood tests and a ultrasound. If they find anything suspicious, they might use a needle to get a sample of your thyroid tissue for testing. If it’s small or has a low risk of spreading, your doctor may schedule you for regular visits to keep an eye on it.

If it’s cancerous, you’ll have surgery to remove your thyroid gland, like Sofia Vergara did, so the cancer is removed before it can spread to other parts of your body.