I was reading a magazine story this week about Dancing with the Stars contestant Jennifer Grey (if you don't know her from Dirty Dancing then get that DVD as soon as you can!), and she mentioned that she was recently diagnosed with thyroid cancer. It wasn’t serious, she said. It was diagnosed early and her doctor told her it’s highly curable when caught in the beginning stages. She had the lump removed and needed no further treatment. She was very upbeat about it and has moved on pretty quickly. She never even mentioned it to her kids until she helped out with a cancer fundraiser and is now in full health and hitting the DWTS floor like the dancing queen she is!
Instances of thyroid cancer are on the increase. For women, it’s now the fastest growing cancer, although it’s still uncommon as a general rule. The cancer grows in the neck – attached to the thyroid gland there that’s shaped very like a butterfly.
Thyroid cancer remains one of the easiest of cancers to treat – with a success rate of 97%, five years after diagnosis. If caught early, like in actress Jennifer Grey’s case, no treatment is needed beyond removal of the cancer- usually meaning full or partial removal of the gland. Thyroid cancer is seen in women at a much higher rate (three times higher) than men.
So why have cases of thyroid cancer doubled in the last 30 years? The jury is out, says Dr. Kenneth Burman who works at the endocrine section at Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C. “…it is not that simple. The question is whether or not it is related to detection and radiological studies, or if it is related to an authentic rise in thyroid cancer.”
To add complications: even though women get thyroid cancer more than men, more men die from it than women. Again, researchers are stumped as to why this may be. It may be related to “traditional” male jobs (mines, nuclear plants) or it may be that men report signs to doctors later than women.
In general, a person is diagnosed beginning with neck checks, ultrasounds, and biopsies and treated by surgery and an iodine (radioactive) treatment to the area.