Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Thyroid cancer information

Finally I have found a nice little compact resource on thyroid cancer. It is published by the Thyroid Cancer Survivor's Association ( There is not a lot of information out there about thyroid cancer because it is relatively rare - about 30,000 cases annually out of the 1.6 million total cases of cancer in the US each year. Also, its is one of those so called 'good' cancers (and again if you say it to me, I'll be forced to smack you - no cancer is a good cancer) as the survival rate is relatively high.

However the result of treatment for thyroid cancer is a lifetime of monitoring to keep your thyroid levels right - your thyroid levels can affect all sorts of things in your body including blood calcium levels, metabolism, etc - and monitor for recurrence. That's right thyroid cancer is known to recur up to 30-40 years later. So never mind that you get through the first five years when most cancers recur, its the first 40 years that you have to worry about recurrence. According to this new book:

"After your treatment, you will receive life-long monitoring. This  is for two main reasons.
• First, long-term monitoring is important to make sure that your dose of thyroid hormone replacement is appropriate—neither too low nor too high for your specific needs.
• Second, you will receive testing to find out if there is persistent disease or possible recurrence. Many people with
differentiated thyroid cancer experience persistent disease or a recurrence, sometimes many years after the initial treatment. The prognosis for any person with a recurrence is better if it is discovered early. This is why life-long monitoring is important.
• The exact type of monitoring, and how often it takes place, depends on the size of the original tumor and whether the cancer had spread locally or distantly, as well as other factors.
• People free of disease receive less monitoring or testing than those with evidence of persistent disease.
• Also, testing is spread out and becomes less frequent when the patient becomes free of disease. You and your doctor should discuss a plan to fit your situation.
Monitoring will most likely include:
• Physical neck examination, including feeling the thyroid bed area. Typically, this is done every 3 to 6 months for the first 2 years, and at least once a year thereafter.
• Blood tests. Certain blood tests will determine if you are on the right dosage of thyroid hormone replacement. Your medication dose may change over time. Blood testing is also useful to monitor for cancer recurrence. The blood tests will depend on your type of thyroid cancer.
• Neck ultrasound. This test is increasingly used because it is a very sensitive way to find potential disease in the neck. It involves moving an instrument along your neck, without any pain, and there is no radiation exposure associated with it."

So it may be a good cancer in that you probably won't die from it right away, unless you have Anaplastic thyroid cancer which is only given a Stage IV diagnosis and prognosis, but you have to keep watch for the rest of your life. And cancer is cancer no matter how you call it. If you want to learn more, go here and down load your own copy of the new book.

1 comment:

Stephen Trevathan said...

I have to agree with you Caroline. There is no such thing as "good cancer". There is always a life and death factor when dealing with cancer. I've been learning about recent cancer treatment clinical trials. I personally think this research could take us in a positive direction.