January is traditionally Thyroid Awareness month. I would like to focus your attention on thyroid cancer because it is one aspect of thyroid disease that is often forgotten and patients have a difficult time to find a reliable source of information.
For a long time thyroid cancer was in the category of health conditions about which little or nothing was written and many people were suffering more from the lack of support and information about it than from the actual disease itself.
Thyroid cancer is an abnormal growth of thyroid cells that can mutate and spread into the surrounding tissues and organs. It can take years for cancerous cells to grow and spread and certain types of cells can be a predictive factor for the aggressiveness and degree of malignancy. Thyroid cancer remains a “rare” type of cancer that accounts for 2% of all cancers and has a high survival rate, however it does not mean that it cannot be dangerous or life threatening.
The following infographic shows most the common risk factors and treatments for thyroid cancer:
5 Facts You Need To Know About Thyroid Cancer
1. Incidence of papillary thyroid cancer is significantly higher in people with Hashimoto’s disease.
Papillary thyroid cancer is the most common cancer that involves the thyroid gland and has a 10-year relative survival rate as high as 93%. What many people do not know is that this type of cancer has a higher incidence in those who have Hashimoto’s disease.
However, the presence of autoimmune thyroiditis in patients with papillary thyroid cancer has been associated with a better outcome, lower incidence of spreading into the lymphnodes, lower recurrence rate and less aggressive disease at the time of surgery.
2. Genetic tests can be effectively used to determine risks of thyroid cancer.
Most types of thyroid cancer such as papillary, follicular or a mix of both are treatable in up to 95% of patients. These types of thyroid cancer grow slowly and it takes them a very long time to spread to surrounding lymph nodes and less often into the lungs and bones.
While some types of thyroid cancer have hereditary predisposition medullary thyroid cancer is the only one that is known to be absolutely genetic without any external and environmental triggers involved and can be very aggressive. Having a particular gene almost guarantees that a person will develop medullary thyroid cancer.
If you have a family member who was diagnosed with medullary thyroid cancer, genetic screening for the rest of the family can be beneficial and help prevent a predictable life threatening disease.
3. New predictive risk factor for thyroid cancer
A fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy is a commonly used diagnostic tool for thyroid cancer. However, over 20% of patients have inconclusive FNA results and usually undergo surgery to remove the thyroid nodules and establish the definite diagnosis. Based on the results of pathologic studies between up to 80% of those patients have benign and non-cancerous thyroid nodules making inconclusive cytology results responsible for an increased number of unnecessary surgeries.
New studies show that pre-surgery levels of thyroglobulin (Tg) can be used as a useful biochemical marker to establish between benign thyroid nodules and well-differentiated follicular thyroid cancer when results of FNA are inconclusive.
It was found that in nodules that are bigger than 1.7 cm a combination of inconclusive cytological pathology results and elevated preoperative Tg ≥ 75 ng/mL levels predicts the high risk for malignancy. Studies indicate that in practice Tg levels before surgery may be one of the most useful single predictive factors for distinguishing between benign nodules and follicular thyroid cancer when FNA results are inconclusive. This method significantly increases the effectiveness of diagnosis and can help to avoid unnecessary thyroid surgery.
4. Thyroid surgery without a scar
Standard laparoscopic surgery traditionally has been performed through a neck incision just above the collar bone leaving patients with a 6-8 cm scar on the neck after the procedure. There is a new minimally invasive technic called Da Vinci “robot-assisted endoscopic thyroid and parathyroid surgery” that does not require neck incisions.
The thyroid or parathyroid can be approached through an incision under the arm and operated using a special surgical system that allows to avoid scars in the visible area and reduce post-surgical numbness in the neck. The procedure can be performed to remove thyroid nodules, reduce goiter and for partial or full thyroidectomy.
The patients have a smaller 1-4 cm or hidden incisions while having the same outcome as standard traditional open surgery, often recovering faster, lowering incidence of nerve injury and post-operative hypocalcemia (low calcium levels related to injury to the parathyroid glands) and reducing the risk of other complications.
5. Life after thyroid surgery should not be miserable
What most people are unaware is that thyroid medication is not the only treatment that is left after the surgery and you can improve your thyroid function even if you do not have your thyroid any more.
Most patients who had partial or full thyroidectomy are required to take thyroid medication to replace missing hormones that could not be produced in the body without the thyroid gland. Feeling better and not having hypothyroid symptoms does not only depend on being on the right dose or type of medication.
After entering the body thyroid hormones from the medication have to undergo the same pathways as hormones that would be naturally produced by the thyroid gland. For example, inactive T4 hormone has to be converted into the active T3 hormone in the gut and liver.
People without a thyroid gland depend on the T4 to T3 conversions and if this process becomes impaired due to chronic stress, sluggish liver, toxicity, dysbiosis and/or other digestive issues they do not feel well and never will.
If your T3 is low and you take any T4 and T3 combination drugs you may start to feel better temporarily but in reality it is a band aid solution and you just mask your symptoms by not correcting the underlying causes of thyroid hormone under-conversion. This will ultimately result in returning symptoms, endless dose adjustments of your thyroid medication and having even more health issues down the road.
There is a better way to improve the way you feel by making dietary and lifestyle changes that focus on three main aspects:
– How to support your digestion for optimal absorption of medication
– How to support your liver for maximum T4 to T3 conversion
– How to use nutrition in balancing other hormones affecting the thyroid.
Following this program you will support your body’s ability to convert and process thyroid hormones right into the cells where they can perform their metabolic action.
The usual outcome of this program is more energy, better digestion, some weight loss, mental clarity and less need for thyroid medication. Give it a try.
P.S. Do you like what you read and want to get more? Subscribe to our Newsletters and get FREE Hypothyroidism Diet Guide