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The Good News About Thyroid Cancer

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Cancer. This is definitely one of the most dreaded words there is. We usually conjure up images of people making multiple hospital visits, loosing strength, weight and hair, being bedridden and finally experiencing a slow death. Some cancers are so aggressive that medical science has not found the cure, but this is not the case with thyroid cancer.

The ATA (American Thyroid Association) reports that although thyroid cancer is the most common endocrine cancer, the prognosis for these patients is very good. This is especially true since this type of cancer is easily curable…with surgery! Only in small isolated cases has there been pain or disability associated with thyroid removal surgery. The ATA further indicates that even the treatment (radioactive iodine) for thyroid cancer is “well-tolerated” and widely available to all.

Symptoms and Causes

The majority of the time, patients notice a lump under their neck, which causes them to seek medical help. Or, a doctor may notice a lump under the patient’s neck during a yearly check-up. Some, however, complain of pain in the jaw or ear. In rarer cases still, the cancer nodule is so big that it restricts breathing or causes hoarseness.

Additionally, scientists really don’t have a clear idea of why people develop thyroid cancer. They do know that there are certain indicators, for example, if a person has been exposed to radiation, have a family history of this type of cancer and are over 40.

Diagnosis and Treatment

In order to obtain an accurate diagnosis, the patient must submit to a biopsy. Once a clear reading of cancer is obtained from the biopsy, treatment can begin. There are four types of thyroid cancer: papillary, follicular, medullary, and anaplastic. Papillary is one of the most common and least aggressive while anaplastic is considered the rarest and most aggressive.

So, what about the treatment? As stated before, surgery is used to successfully remove thyroid cancer. Usually most, if not all of it, is removed. As a result, the patient will take thyroid hormones permanently. In some cases, radioactive iodine is used to search for and destroy any remaining cancer left in the body.

Finally, of course, the patient will need to submit to periodic follow-up examinations. This is because, unfortunately, in a small number of patients, the cancer will return. So, follow-ups are important, although for most patients, the prognosis is excellent indeed.

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Add a Comment4 Comments

I appreciate your points brought out here. And alysiak hit it on the head, this article is not meant to 'make light' or water down the severity of cancer. The title is only a play on words. That being said, I know people's lives have been touched and/or ravaged by all forms of cancer. It is serious. It is not a game. This article is written to emphasize the point that when diagnosed with this kind of cancer, you are not totally without hope or help. But yes, your life will change. Your experience should be respected. But for those who don't know what to expect at all, this article gives them at least an idea. It was not meant to be an indepth article that lists an extensive series of what's going to happen - it gives just an overview. Let me apologize if anyone felt trivialized. I personally have had a ailment that is rare, and subsequently, some have treated me that way. Especially since my ailment is not as generally known as others. Thanks again for your responses.

September 2, 2009 - 6:37am

I think the point of this article is that thyroid cancer is treatable. While I think it's good to try to dispel fear about thyroid cancer, I don't think the intention was to make it out to be the best of any cancers to have.

Thank you, Anon, for your response and point of view.

September 1, 2009 - 5:33pm
EmpowHER Guest

There's no way to really tiptoe around how I feel about this article. So I'm going to start off by saying the absolute worse thing you can tell any thyca patient is that they have "the good cancer", "if you get any cancer, this is the one to get", "there's good news about thyroid cancer." The fact is, is that its still cancer. You are still going to have surgery, radiation, and be on pills for the rest of your life because one of your vital life organs has been removed.

There is no cure for thyroid cancer. There is treatment. Surgery and removing cancer is not a cure. That's like me telling you I cured your gangrene by amputating your arm. I-131 kills cancer cells, it does not prevent it from coming back. And the treatment has physical and emotional effects. We're still sucking down poison, even if it isn't chemo.

Yes the prognosis is good. But thyca has it's effects. I would recommend you look at all of the blogs that talk about those effects:
Or check out the discussion boards for thyca on planet cancer; it sort of indicates its more than a few isolated cases. http://myplanet.planetcancer.org/group/thyroidcancer

I don't mean to be debbie downer, but articles like this become extremely frustrating to thyca patients. Suddenly we feel like we're blowing things out of proportion. It trivializes what we go through. It doesn't mention anything about the months to regulate medication. Hypohell, that you go through prepping for radiation (when you have to withdraw from thyroid hormones). It says nothing about how studies have show that the psychological pain/depression of hypohell has repeatedly been worse/more traumatic than someone who has had a heart transplant. For most of us there's weight gain, mood swings, heart palpitations etc, because your thyroid is the main organ that controls your metabolism. Imagine going through all that, and people telling you it could be worse, and that your are lucky, and that you have the "good cancer"; or imagine being the person who reads this article and ends up in that minority with pain, or recurrence, or side-effects, and always questioning "why me?"... when there are hundreds of others going through the same thing.

September 1, 2009 - 5:03pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Thank you very much for writing what I would have written in response. People don't understand that thyroid cancer does kill. Just ask Chief Justice Rehnquist. We are fortunate that most people get the proper treatment and follow up from their doctors. While thyroid cancer rates have been skyrocketing, the death rate has stayed the same. But don't ask about the death rate in Canada. It is much higher than here in the U.S. So much for government run medicine.

September 2, 2009 - 5:25am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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