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Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month – September 2019

Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month – September 2019
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September marks Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month. An annual event created to spread awareness of the effects of thyroid cancer and the importance of early diagnosis and treatment. 

You may have known someone personally who experienced thyroid cancer or perhaps you experienced it yourself. There are also celebrities and people in the public eye who have also been diagnosed and treated for it. These include musician Rod Stewart, Actress Sofia Vergara, Argentinian president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and the band CHIMAIRA’s frontman, Mark Hunter.

Some Thyroid Cancer Facts

  • Thyroid cancer is the fastest growing cancer among women, by number of new cases. [1]
  • Thyroid cancer rates have doubled over the past thirty years and continue to increase.
  • Thyroid cancer is the most common endocrine cancer. It is a cancerous tumour or growth located within the thyroid gland. This can often lead to various symptoms of thyroid disease and tenderness/swelling. [2]
  • The ‘five year survival rate’ tells you what percentage of people live at least five years after the cancer is found. The five year survival rate for people with thyroid cancer is 98%. The ten year survival rate and fifteen year survival rate are 97% and 95%, respectively. So prospects are quite good. [3]
  • Those of us with Hashimoto’s (around 90% of hypothyroidism/underactive thyroid patients) are three times more likely to develop thyroid cancer. [4]
  • Thyroid cancer is two to three times more common in women compared to men, although the cause/s for thyroid cancer, are quite unknown. [5]

Treatment for thyroid cancer typically ends in the patient becoming hypothyroid and requiring thyroid medication for life. However, treatment for thyroid cancer can depend on the type as well as size and stage.

  • In most cases of thyroid cancer, the thyroid gland is surgically removed. This is known as a thyroidectomy. After a thyroidectomy, patients require lifelong thyroid medication, in order to replace what their non-existent thyroid is no longer producing for them. Thus, they become hypothyroid following a thyroidectomy.
  • Some are given radioactive iodine treatment, also known as remnant ablation. This is often given to kill off any thyroid tissue remaining after the thyroid surgery, and also often ends in lifelong hypothyroidism.
  • Experts recommend that TSH levels should be kept at a low level to help prevent a recurrence of the cancer, often meaning a suppressed TSH.

Just like having hypothyroidism, thyroid cancer requires lifelong monitoring, however does have a high survival rate. [6]

By closely monitoring, it helps the patient and their doctor to keep on top of any possible recurrence of the cancer.

There isn’t just an overall ‘thyroid cancer’, but actually four different types. These are:

  1. Papillary cancer 
  2. Follicular cancer
  3. Medullary cancer
  4. Anaplastic 

For more info on the different types of thyroid cancer, please see here.

If you are now hypothyroid following treatment for thyroid cancer, you may wish to explore research found in many thyroid books shown here. You can also check out other articles listed under the ‘thyroid cancer‘ category.

How To Spot Thyroid Cancer

Some people with thyroid cancer do not seem to develop any symptoms, whereas others may notice they have a goitre or enlarged thyroid gland.

Physical symptoms can include:

  • A pain in the neck
  • A hoarse voice
  • Enlarged lymph nodes/neck/thyroid
  • Thyroid nodules

Remember, if you suspect anything suspicious or indicative of thyroid cancer or any complications of your health, always get to a doctor as soon as possible for examination.

Checking your neck for goitres, nodules and abnormalities is important to do so you can get appropriate treatment as soon as possible.

How To Check Your Neck:

  1. Get yourself in front of a mirror, removing anything that doesn’t give you a clear view of your neck, like turtle necks and scarves.
  2. Stretch your neck back, with your chin pointing towards the ceiling.
  3. Closely look at your neck, looking for any enlargement or lumpiness.
  4. Swallowing some water might help to highlight any lumps.
  5. Feel where your thyroid is, and around it, very gently, to see if you can feel any enlargement or lumps
  6. If you think you can feel something not quite right, like any enlargement, tenderness (besides the uncomfortable feeling of touching your neck area) or lumps, you should see a doctor as soon as possible to get their opinion.

For info on goitres, nodules and enlargement, see here.

How Can I Help Spread Awareness?

This awareness month, you can share posts and articles like this one, as well as info-graphics and images that help spread awareness of Thyroid Cancer. You may also wish to share your own experience and journey with thyroid cancer to highlight the importance of awareness.

Talking about thyroid cancer with friends and family and informing them about the signs and symptoms is a good idea, as well as showing support by donating to or supporting thyroid charities and advocacies that push for further awareness and research.

Have you had experience of thyroid cancer? Let me know your story in the comments section below. 

You can click on the hyperlinks in the above post to learn more and see references to information given, but more can be found at:

https://www.theinvisiblehypothyroidism.com/2016/08/26/what-is-a-thyroidectomy/

https://www.theinvisiblehypothyroidism.com/2016/04/20/how-to-check-your-neck-for-goitres/

https://www.theinvisiblehypothyroidism.com/2016/03/29/an-enlarged-neck-and-your-thyroid-goitres/

References:

[1] https://www.facebook.com/columbiasurgery/photos/a.95000002710.91140.78606477710/10152359526292711/?type=3

[2] https://www.thyca.org/about/thyroid-cancer-facts/

[3] https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/thyroid-cancer/statistics

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3066320

[5] https://www.verywell.com/what-everybody-ought-to-know-about-thyroid-cancer-3232813

[6] https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/type/thyroid-cancer/treatment/thyroid-cancer-statistics-and-outlook#Overall

About Author

Rachel Hill is the highly ranked and multi-award winning thyroid patient advocate, writer, speaker and author behind The Invisible Hypothyroidism. Her thyroid advocacy work includes writing articles, authoring books, producing her Thyroid Family email newsletters and speaking on podcasts, as well as being a founding board member for the American College of Thyroidology. She is well-recognised as a crucial and influential contributor to the thyroid community and has a large social media presence. Her books include "Be Your Own Thyroid Advocate" and "You, Me and Hypothyroidism".

2 Comments

  • Andrea
    September 8, 2019 at 3:20 am

    Thank you, it’s been more Insightful than intimidating. When doing research on something you had no idea of and you come across so many different testimonies and blogs positive negative trying to find one that fits you that matches what you’ve gone through is not easy. And emotional roller coaster is what I’ve been on. However reading your post for some reason has inspired me to reply For the first time. Thank you.

    Reply
  • evangeline moreno
    September 6, 2019 at 10:07 am

    I just found out yesterday that I also have thyroid cancer “papillary cancer”… shocked and unable to think please help US and PRAY for US..Let’s be aware..

    Reply

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