Update – 30 Amazing Resistant Starch Foods for Better DigestionMay 13, 2019
Are You On The Right Amount of Thyroid Medication?May 20, 2019
Thyroid cancer is serious, but it is treatable – with the right steps. In fact, thyroid cancer has a high survival rate overall1,2. Today, let’s talk a little bit more about thyroid cancer, what you need to know about it, and if (and how) it can be treated.
Thyroid Cancer: The Basics
Most people with thyroid cancer do not die of the disease, this depends on two key factors:
- A patient’s age
- The stage of cancer
Overall, though, the truth is that thyroid cancer has a great prognosis. It is important to know, though, that those who are treated for thyroid cancer will still benefit from treatment for Hashimoto’s disease.
Key Insight: Many approaches to treatment overlap between Hashimoto’s and thyroid cancer, such as optimizing one’s TSH score (1).
You might have been hearing more about thyroid cancer because rates are definitely on the rise3,4. When you hear a statistic like this, you may think that it is because detection is a greater or better diagnosis but this is not the case (there are certainly more cases).
The Symptoms of Thyroid Cancer
What symptoms of thyroid cancer are common? There are many symptoms that are non-specific to thyroid, as well as those which overlap with hypothyroid or hyperthyroid symptoms (such as hoarseness and changes in your TSH levels).
There are some symptoms that should not be ignored and reported to a physician, these include:
- Thyroid/neck enlargement
- Difficulty swallowing
- Difficulty speaking
- A lingering cough
- Feeling a lump/bump on your thyroid
Keep in mind that your thyroid sits at the base of your neck. It is always beneficial to do a “self thyroid exam,” every month, to feel for any changes. This way, you can “get to know your normal,” and to pick up on things if they feel off in any way (2).
It is also important to know that you can also have no symptoms at all! That is why a thyroid ultrasound, and seeking out the help of a professional, is important and should be a vital component of routine testing for you.
Bottom Line: If you have a personal or familial history of thyroid disease, it is so important to seek out a thyroid ultrasound to really get a greater understanding of how things are working – and if there are any issues at all.
There are some other things you might want to consider. Such as any exposure to radiation (such as CT scans or dental x-rays)5,6. Or, if you have a personal history of nodules (3).
Thyroid Cancer Diagnosis
There are two key ways of achieving a diagnosis to understand whether or not you have thyroid cancer:
- Fine Needle Aspiration/Excisional Biopsy
In the case of ultrasounds, this is a good screening tool for all with thyroid disease or suspected of having thyroid disease. In fact, it is underutilized but a completely safe test (with no radiation involved).
If something unusual were to present itself during an ultrasound, there may be recommendations to have a fine needle aspiration (FNA) and/or biopsy to take a closer look at the cells in the thyroid.
Bottom Line: No matter how you look at it, it is incredibly important to gain a complete understanding of your thyroid and how it is working – especially if you have any of the aforementioned symptoms or a familial history with thyroid disease.
Treating Thyroid Cancer
It all depends on the stage and the type of cancer present, but some popular thyroid cancer treatments include:
Surgery – What is often considered the best and most appropriate treatment (4).
Radiofrequency-ablation7 – This is a process using heat to treat the cancer cells.
Radioactive Iodine – High doses of iodine to destroy thyroid cells (5).
Key Insight: Any qualified physician or surgeon can help answer your questions and provide more information on which course of treatment would be best for you.
Long-term TSH suppression, and not complete TSH suppression, is important to consider as a method of treatment for thyroid cancer.
TSH is a hormone that causes growth. Keeping your TSH between 0.5 – 1.0 can reduce the risk of unwanted cell proliferation8.
Key Insight: Complete suppression (under 0.5), though, is detrimental and places you at risk for things such as cardiac disease, anxiety, and osteoporosis, goiter, hypertension, thyroid storm 9.
Keeping an eye on your thyroglobulin is a good idea overall because it acts as a marker for thyroid inflammation and tissue growth in our body (5). This protein is produced in the body and builds thyroid hormone.
Bottom Line: Thyroglobulin is not to be confused with anti-thyroglobulin, which is a thyroid antibody that targets thyroglobulin.
Thyroid Cancer Survival Rates
Papillary thyroid carcinoma is the most common type of thyroid cancer and has a 10-year survival rate of over 90%1.
Follicular thyroid cancers are the next most common with an over 80% 10-year survival rate.
The rarest type of thyroid cancer is medullary and has a 10-year survival rate of over 80%.
Natural Desiccated Thyroid & Thyroid Cancer
Is there a possibility for NDT to be used for those with thyroid cancer? Yes, because it is safe and also wise to do so.
If you have had your thyroid removed or radio ablation, you will most likely need thyroid supplementation whether it is synthetic or natural desiccated in origin.
In fact, NDT provides comprehensive support (6). There are also many NDT options, which means that making the switch is as simple as seeing a qualified physician (7).
Hashimoto’s & Thyroid Cancer
It was seen in a recent study that Hashimoto’s was more commonly seen surrounding papillary cancer and associated with a better prognosis10.
Don’t be too concerned, though, because this does not mean that if you have Hashimoto’s disease you will get thyroid cancer. This is just something your physician should monitor (knowing you have a diagnosis of Hashimoto’s).
Key Insight: Many of the same causes drive both conditions, even if they are separate, so treatment for both is important.
Some of the other things that you can do include:
- Detoxification – Avoiding environmental pollutants.
- TSH – Maintaining your optimal TSH levels.
- Immune Stressors – Ensuring that they are decreased (8).
Understand Your Options Today
What you need to know from our conversation today is that most thyroid cancers are completely treatable – and even feature high survival rates. If you need more information or treatment options, please speak to your doctor.
Until then, you can also take the Thyroid Quiz (9) to learn more about your thyroid and what you can do in terms of treatment. Our doctors at Integrative Health are also always ready to answer any of your questions and to help you – so please consider reaching out today (10).
1. Dean DS, Hay ID. Prognostic indicators in differentiated thyroid carcinoma. Cancer Control. 2000;7(3):229-239. doi:10.1177/107327480000700302
2. Mazzaferri EL, Jhiang SM. Long-term impact of initial surgical and medical therapy on papillary and follicular thyroid cancer. Am J Med. 1994;97(5):418-428. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7977430. Accessed January 5, 2019.
3. G. P, F. F, C. R, S. S, R. V. Worldwide increasing incidence of thyroid cancer: Update on epidemiology and risk factors. J Cancer Epidemiol. 2013;2013. doi:10.1155/2013/965212
4. Du L, Wang Y, Sun X, et al. Thyroid cancer: trends in incidence, mortality and clinical-pathological patterns in Zhejiang Province, Southeast China. BMC Cancer. 2018;18(1):291. doi:10.1186/s12885-018-4081-7
5. Neta G, Rajaraman P, Berrington De Gonzalez A, et al. A prospective study of medical diagnostic radiography and risk of thyroid cancer. Am J Epidemiol. 2013;177(8):800-809. doi:10.1093/aje/kws315
6. Schonfeld SJ, Lee C, Berrington de González A. Medical Exposure to Radiation and Thyroid Cancer. Clin Oncol. 2011;23(4):244-250. doi:10.1016/j.clon.2011.01.159
7. Park HS, Baek JH, Park AW, Chung SR, Choi YJ, Lee JH. Thyroid radiofrequency ablation: Updates on innovative devices and techniques. Korean J Radiol. 2017;18(4):615-623. doi:10.3348/kjr.2017.18.4.615
8. Soh EY, Sobhi SA, Wong MG, et al. Thyroid-stimulating hormone promotes the secretion of vascular endothelial growth factor in thyroid cancer cell lines. Surgery. 1996;120(6):944-947. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8957478. Accessed January 7, 2019.
9. Hyperthyroidism – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hyperthyroidism/symptoms-causes/syc-20373659. Accessed January 15, 2019.
10. Lee J-H, Kim Y, Choi J-W, Kim Y-S. The association between papillary thyroid carcinoma and histologically proven Hashimoto’s thyroiditis: a meta-analysis. Eur J Endocrinol. 2013;168(3):343-349. doi:10.1530/EJE-12-0903
Written by Dr. Tara Burke of Integrative Health. Dr. Tara Burke is a licensed Naturopathic Medical Doctor earning her degree at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Arizona. While attending SCNM, Dr. Burke gravitated to endocrinology and women’s health, focusing much of her studies on these topics.
Learn more about Dr. Burke here.