Myth-Busting: The Good Cancer . We’re Talking About Thyroid Cancer
Often one hears that thyroid cancer is the so-called, “good” cancer. Is that true? Is there a, “good” cancer? Can it be? Well, I want to say a few words about this myth.
First off, let’s define what cancer is. According to Answers.com:
“Cancer is not just one disease, but a large group of almost one hundred diseases. Its two main characteristics are uncontrolled growth of the cells in the human body and the ability of these cells to migrate from the original site and spread to distant sites. If the spread is not controlled, cancer can result in death…
That is certainly not, “good” No cancer is ever, “good”
There are, several types of thyroid cancers. One, the, anaplastic carcinoma, though, rare, is also very aggressive and quite deadly. 80% of all patients with this kind of thyroid cancer do not survive for more than one year.
Yikes!, That definitely and absolutely is not, “good”
The other common types of thyroid cancer are: follicular carcinoma (30% of cases), medullary carcinoma is a cancer that often runs in families, and then there is papillary carcinoma which is, by far, the most common of all thyroid cancers. I had a papillary carcinoma.
But all thyroid cancers can spread, to other parts of the body (or, metastasize). Usually first to one or more of the, lymph nodes; but they can also wander off (though rarely) to other parts of the body. These cancers also can kill you.
That doesn’t sound, “good” to me!
To fight thyroid cancer one usually has the thyroid surgically removed. It is a major operation, the whole works, with full anesthesia, OR (that’s “Operating Room” not my lovely home-state of Oregon). Thyroidectomy it is called.
Major surgery, hmm, doesn’t feel too, “good” to me!
After your thyroid is removed, there needs to be a mop-up job. Any remnant thyroid cells in your body need to be hunted down and destroyed. This is where, RAI treatment comes in, it stands for “Radio-active Iodine” – How does this work? Well, thyroid cells really, really love iodine, they suck it up like candy (Yet, other cells in the body do not absorb the iodine). So, if you make the iodine strongly radioactive (that is something cells cannot stand), those cells die.
And to make those cells really go crazy about iodine, the doctors put you onto a “low iodine diet” for a few weeks. Oh, what fun it was! I hated that diet. Wrote about it in a previous post of mine. See: The Thing With The Fish Cravings.
Getting back to the topic: so they give you a strongly radioactive capsule, and either they lock you up in a lead-lined hospital room, or they send you home, sequestered to an isolated room in your house, for about 5 days. – Even your used underwear will be declared “radioactive waste” (I am not kidding)
Now, you tell me, – is that a, “good” cancer?
Since after thyroid cancer your thyroid is gone, you need to take a daily thyroid hormone pill. Problem with that is, it has to be adjusted and balanced. People with thyroid disease know the roller coaster effect of having to much (hyper) or too little (hypo) of the hormone in your system.
Believe me, this isn’t so, “good”
And after you had the surgery and your radio-active “glowing in the dark” treatment to remove any remnant cells, you need to have check-ups to make sure no thyroid cells are left in your body. One way of checking is to test for, thyroglobulin values in your blood. After thyroid cancer and treatments, your thyroglobulin should be near zero. -
In addition, there is a way similar to the RAI treatment, only this time the radio-active dose is much, much lower. Just enough so that a sensitive scanner can pick up any thyroid cells that picked up the iodine. This is called a “whole body thyroid scan”
Follow-up with more radio-active scanning, not really, “good” is it?
The number of thyroid cancer cases in the US are growing recently. When I had my cancer the doctors asked if I was exposed to radioactive fallout or other sources during my youth. – Radiation exposure is one known trigger for thyroid cancers.
That sounds scary to me and not exactly, “good”
You are getting the message, aren’t you? Well now that, on the other hand, is very, “good” !!!
So, after I scared you a little, in the next segment I will talk about some aspects of thyroid cancer that actually are quite positive. Stay tuned!
HD in Oregon
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