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Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month

“Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month is a worldwide observance, sponsored and initiated by ThyCa: Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association. It began in 2000, as a week in September. In 2003, it expanded to the whole month of September.

Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month listed in directories and references, including the American Hospital Association’s Calendar of Health Observances & Recognition Days.

Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month promotes thyroid cancer awareness for early detection, as well as care based on expert standards, and increased research to achieve cures for all thyroid cancer.”

http://www.thyca.org/home/

This has been a busy year for our practice with respect to thyroid cancer.  We have managed many patients with newly diagnosed thyroid cancer.  Thyroid cancer is not very common (only about 60,000 new cases annually in the U.S), but is increasing in incidence.  Fortunately, most thyroid cancers fall under the category of well-differentiated thyroid cancers, meaning that they are not typically as aggressive as the poorly-differentiated thyroid cancers.

The most common factors for development of thyroid malignancy are family history, a history of ionizing radiation to the neck, and autoimmune disease affecting the thyroid (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis).  Patients do not tend to have symptoms when they have a cancerous nodule, although they can often detect a mass or lump in the neck, difficulty swallowing, or hoarseness.  Occasionally, symptoms of underactive or overactive thyroid function may be present (including, but not limited to heat/cold intolerance, weight loss/gain, palpitations, anxiety, swelling in the extremities).

Thyroid cancers are typically diagnosed with fine needle aspiration biopsies or surgical removal of a gland that is causing symptoms.  After surgical removal, thyroid cancer can be further controlled by administration of radioactive iodine in order to ablate residual microscopic thyroid disease.  This is typically done in conjunction with an endocrinologist (physician specializing in disorders of the thyroid and other endocrine glands).

Surgery is performed in the hospital under general anesthesia via a small incision in the midline of the neck.  Most patients are discharged home the morning after surgery and return to their normal daily activities within a few days.  Thyroid surgery does not tend to be a painful operation, and many of my patients barely require much in the way of strong pain medication afterwards.  Healing is typically fairly quick and the incision tends to be completely healed over in about two weeks.

A recent patient of mine underwent surgery earlier this year and had just one major concern, in addition to cancer, of course: the patient wanted to be sure that there would be complete healing prior to the wedding.  The wedding was scheduled for 3 months after we initially met.  We were able to coordinate with the endocrinologist and get the patient cancer free in just a couple of months and in time for the nuptials!

If you would like to consult with our office concerning thyroid disease, including thyroid cancer, please contact us anytime at (770) 345-6600.  We look forward to meeting with you!

Lawrence L. Robinson, Jr., MD