There’s a lot that goes on in September for residents of Burbank and elsewhere, including several events and observances that focus on your health, especially if you’re receiving 24-hour home care. At least one, in particular, is worth learning more about: thyroid cancer.
Accredited Home Care encourages clients, their family members, or others who want to learn more about the thyroid to visit thyca.org. The site is a useful resource for anything related to thyroid, including what to do if you or your provider believe it isn’t working as it is supposed to or how to get help if somethings going wrong.
The thyroid is a small gland in the throat that regulates much of the body’s function, including blood pressure, heart rate, weight, and body temperature.
When it stops working well, such as in a cancer situation, all of these systems may be disrupted. Cancers may affect the cells of the gland itself or add new cancerous nodes and nodules to it.
The September event we’re referring to is Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month, an opportunity to increase awareness, find out risk factors and treatment options, and generally become more educated on what’s becoming a more common cancer for some unknown reason. Some suspect it’s because technology is making it easier to detect, especially smaller cells that may have been missed in the past. So in this context, an increased number of cases is a good thing.
Thyroid advocates have been commemorating Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month since 2000. It was started by the Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association, a non-profit organization that focuses on creating a global network of cancer survivors and health care providers. It also encourages and supports research into possible treatments, and also lets survivors know about available support services.
Though people may generally be familiar with cancer, thyroid cancer has some unique characteristics, including:
- There are multiple types of thyroid cancer. Though it’s easy to refer to any of them as one general cancer, there are actually four main types: papillary or mixed papillary/follicular cancer; follicular and or Hurthle cell cancer; medullary cancer; and anaplastic cancer. Papillary or mixed are the most common followed by follicular.
- Thyroid cancer is considered one of the more “survivable” cancers. It generally can be treated easily and for the most part, has a low mortality rate. For instance, patients under age 50 diagnosed with papillary or follicular cancers have a 98 percent cure rate if it is treated quickly and appropriately. There are some exceptions: anaplastic is the rarest and can lead to death quickly.
- It can come back. Although the survival rate is high, there’s also a high possibility of the same cancer returning even after treatment is believed to be complete. This usually pertains to treatment involving cutting away cancerous nodes, which can come back, vs. removing some or all of the thyroid.
- Many treatment options. Although radiation therapy is commonly prescribed for many cases, some people may undergo chemotherapy. In most cases, removing the thyroid or pieces of it as part of the treatment process.
- The risk may increase by location. Though science is unsure of some of the factors that can increase the likelihood of having thyroid cancer, one seems to be proximity to nuclear power generators. Why this adds to the risk factor is also unknown but may be due to the high iodine concentrations or other natural radiation in the air. People who live by these areas who have had thyroid cancer in the past are also asked to take certain precautions to reduce exposure to radiation and possibly increase their risk of recurrence.
Other thyroid cancer info
Although thyroid cancers are considered more survivable than some types of cancer, the Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association suggests that it shouldn’t be thought of as a “good cancer.”
People who have been treated for this cancer in the past are always on the lookout for a recurrence or worry about it moving into other parts of their body since the thyroid is a gland and could send cancer cells into other areas.
Because of past treatment for cancer, they could be missing part or all of their thyroid, which could affect their weight, their moods, their energy level, and other aspects of daily life that the thyroid controls. To supplement this and help regulate the thyroid’s function, some are asked to take certain types of medicine every day for the rest of their life.
A health care provider also may recommend regular blood testing or thyroid scans to determine various levels and functions. So it definitely can be disruptive.
Another area of concern is the symptoms. At first, as cells are growing and mutating, you may not feel anything. But as they grow you might start to feel pain and swelling in your neck and throat. Your voice may become hoarse and you may have a hard time swallowing.
Because the thyroid is such a vital piece of your body function, it’s important to get it checked out regularly with a health care provider.