- Posted September 22, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
The written word: Your personal essays
Thyroid Cancer- You Gotta Have It
As a marketing professional, I'm always looking at how others are attempting to grab people's attention. The first time I heard the phrase, “Its the cancer to have”, it was in reference to an article on thyroid cancer. I remember thinking, “That may be the only way to catch someone's attention and sell them on being comfortable with the BIG C word.”
Those words came back to me the day I was sitting in the doctor's office as he shared with us my girlfriend's biopsy results. My girlfriend of four years and friend for twenty-five is a former pituitary cancer survivor. The news was like an old wound being torn open, again. “The cells came back in the biopsy as suspicious. It would be best to remove the thyroid. This is really a very treatable form of cancer and it has a treatment success rate of about 96%,” the doctor continued. “Its the cancer to have and is very treatable in most cases.”
The doctor had my attention. I remember my uncontrollable smirk surfacing. It was the same smirk and obvious “tell” that would always kill me in a poker game. But, all bets were off now and bluffing our way through this was not an option. I remember thinking, “That's an oddly reassuring statement to hear in a doctor's office – its the cancer to have.”
Did the doctor just say “Congratulations, you've got cancer” ?
Yeah, I get it. It's a cancer with a high success rate for treatment. Many can take thyroid meds their entire lives without dramatic lifestyle changes. As I began to take everything in, I realized I've ran across a number of stories regarding thyroid cancer lately. These stories were not only in the news, but also discoveries of personal friends or associates that have had thyroid disease and subsequent thyroidectomies. Honestly, their plight never truly resonated with me, until now.
But, the increased occurrence of thyroid cancer has resonated with the medical community and it seems there is debate as to what are the causes for the increase. Many in the medical community feel is it due to better diagnostic procedures. “As the reports of thyroid cancer increased over the past two decades, some experts said the increase was simply because of better diagnostic procedures. For instance, detection methods such as ultrasonography now allow doctors to diagnose thyroid cancer nodules smaller than 1 centimeter. In their Journal of the American Medical Association article published on May 10, 2006, Dr. Louise Davies and Dr. H. Gilbert Welch wrote the detection of more “subclinical disease,” skewed the thyroid cancer rate. They wrote the increasing rate was “not an increase in the true occurrence of thyroid cancer,” but rather better detection allowed doctors to diagnose cancer that previously would have gone undetected.” Source: http://investigativereportingworkshop.org/investigations/thyroid-cancer/story/thyroid-cancer-increase-baffles-researchers/
So what does the thyroid do?
The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland that sits along the front side of your windpipe, just below your Adam's apple. The gland secrets several hormones referred to as thyroid hormones. These hormones act throughout your body and have influence on body temperature, growth, development, and metabolism. These hormones are also crucial for brain development during infancy and early childhood.
How many people a year are diagnosed with thyroid cancer?
According to the American Cancer Society, the statistics for thyroid cancer in the United States for 2013 are: “About 60,220 new cases of thyroid concern (45,310 in women, and 14,910 in men) and about 1,850 deaths from thyroid cancer (1,040 women and 810 men). Source:http://www.cancer.org/cancer/thyroidcancer/detailedguide/thyroid-cancer-key-statistics
What are the causes of thyroid cancer?
According to the Mayo Clinic website, the causes of thyroid cancer are unclear. “Thyroid cancer occurs when cells in your thyroid undergo genetic changes (mutations). The mutations allow the cells to grow and multiply rapidly. The cells also lose the ability to die, as normal cells would. The accumulating abnormal thyroid cells form a tumor.” - Read more on Mayo Clinic website.
What are the treatments for thyroid cancer?
Treatments for thyroid cancer vary depending upon the stage and type of your thyroid cancer along with your health condition and personal preferences. There are numerous sites like the American Cancer Society and the Mayo Clinic with information on treatments.
Early detection, symptoms, and prevention
According to the American Cancer Society, people with thyroid cancer have no known risk factors therefore it is not possible to prevent most cases of the disease. "Many cases of thyroid cancer can be found early. In fact, most thyroid cancers are now found much earlier than in the past and can be treated successfully. Most early thyroid cancers are diagnosed after patients ask their doctors about lumps or nodules they have noticed. Others are found by health care professionals during a routine checkup. Although it's unusual, some thyroid cancers may not cause symptoms until after they reach an advanced stage. If you have unusual symptoms, such as a lump or swelling in your neck, you should make an appointment to see your doctor right away. During routine physical exams, be sure your doctor does a cancer-related checkup that includes an examination of the thyroid. Some doctors recommend that people examine their own necks twice a year to look for any growths or lumps."
- Source: http://www.everydayhealth.com/thyroid-cancer/thyroid-cancer-prevention.aspx
According to the Stanford Medicine Cancer Institute, "Early thyroid cancer may not cause any symptoms. As the cancer grows, one of the first signs of thyroid cancer is a painless lump or swollen lymph nodes in the neck. The following are the most common symptoms of thyroid cancer. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Other symptoms may include: hoarseness or loss of voice as the cancer presses on the nerves to the voice box difficulty swallowing as the cancer presses on the throat However, the symptoms of thyroid cancer may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis."
- Source: http://cancer.stanford.edu/endocrine/thyroid/
I write this sitting in the waiting room at Cedar-Sinai as my girlfriend that I affectionately call “Krumbs with a K” undergoes her thyroidectomy. The procedure is taking approximately 2-1/2 hours and I just received an update from the lead operating room nurse that all is going well. They can actually text you from the nurses' station these days. Ironic. They say that new technology may be a reason for this perceived increase in thyroid cancers. New technology also means both early detection as well as “texting in real time” from surgical staff; saving lives and improving communication and comfort to families. I just don't want to think about the whole texting and operating thing. Thyroid Cancer – you just gotta have it.
I hope this story brings some comfort to those just starting the journey. We've just started ours. You're not alone.
Picture courtesy of 3D4Medical.com