Understanding Thyroid Cancer

With an estimated 62,000 new cases diagnosed annually in the United States, thyroid cancer is fast becoming a real concern. This disease, in fact, is one of the most rapidly increasing cancers in the country, according to the American Cancer Society. The good news is that thyroid cancer is generally very survivable. Only an estimated 1,950 people die from the disease each year.

While thyroid cancer is a growing concern not everyone understands this disease or what to expect from it. The thyroid is an endocrine gland found near the Adam’s apple. This gland is a control box of sorts for the body. It is responsible for controlling how fast the body uses energy, makes proteins and more. It is also the control for the body’s sensitivity to hormones.

When thyroid cancer strikes, treatment may depend a lot on the stage of cancer found. Some people may find a total thyroidectomy is recommended. This involves the complete removal of the gland. The good news is that it is entirely possible to live without a thyroid. The bad news is that life becomes somewhat of a balancing act afterwards. Daily pills to help control hormone levels in the body will become essential.

Managing thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels after a thyroidectomy can be a delicate process. TSH is known to help stimulate tumor growth, but the body does need it. If levels are too high, cancer can be promoted to grow. If they are maintained too low, the risk for other complications, such as osteoporosis in women, arises. With that in mind, doctors will work very carefully to provide oversight to ensure a proper balance is struck.

Thyroid cancer is a serious condition that does require intervention. The disease can be fatal if left unchecked. If it is a concern, be sure to discuss risk factors with a healthcare provider. Early signs may include a swelling in the neck, difficulty swallowing, trouble breathing and a cough that is not related to a cold.

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