The thyroid gland is fairly small, but it does a lot for the body, and can also do a lot of damage to it if it isn’t working properly. This is why it’s important for residents of Cedar Rapids and elsewhere to take steps to see if their thyroid might have a role if parts of their body aren’t working optimally. This could include people receiving hospice care.
The team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care also encourages our clients and their friends and family to learn more about the thyroid and the role it can play in one’s overall health. Because we’ve worked with many patients over the years with various thyroid-related conditions, we’re familiar with its role in different parts of the body.
In case you need to start building your own knowledge from scratch, the thyroid is a small gland in the throat that regulates much of the body’s functions, including blood pressure, heart rate, weight, and body temperature.
When it stops working well, such as in a cancer situation, all of these systems may be disrupted. Cancers may affect the cells of the gland itself or lead to the growth of new cancerous nodes and nodules. Cancer can also affect the gland itself and disperse cancer cells to the different parts of the body.
Removing the nodes may work permanently or temporarily. In some cases, removal of some or all of the gland itself may be necessary.
In these cases, the patient may need to take a variety of medications to stimulate and regulate the functions of the thyroid, perhaps for the rest of their life.
More about cancer
There are different ways the thyroid gland can be affected, including direct trauma such as if someone is in an accident.
But one of the more common ones is cancer. With a few exceptions, thyroid cancer is considered fairly survivable if appropriate treatment is provided.
There’s actually a variety of cancers that can affect the thyroid. The most common ones are papillary or mixed papillary/follicular. Patients under age 50 diagnosed with papillary or follicular cancers have a 98 percent cure rate if it is treated quickly and appropriately.
Other options are Hurthle cell cancer, medullary cancer, and anaplastic cancer. Anaplastic counsel is the rarest, but also has the highest mortality rate and can also affect the body quickly.
Thyroid cancer is considered survivable due to its relatively low mortality rate. But treatment and ongoing support still can be painful and invasive.
If you’ve been diagnosed with a type of thyroid cancer, be sure to keep your provider or providers in the loop, such as your primary provider or any specialists. Their recommendations can be educational. Depending on the individual prognosis, the providers can recommend radiation, chemo, a combination of both, or other therapies.
Research into risk factors for cancer continues. Some research shows a genetic pattern for certain types of thyroid cancers, and there also could be environmental factors such as living near a nuclear power generator. Conversely, those with past thyroid-related conditions who do live or work near nuclear areas are asked to take certain precautions to reduce possible exposure to higher concentrations of iodine and other radioactive particles in the air.
Medical experts say that although thyroid cancers are generally survivable, they shouldn’t necessarily be thought of as “good cancers,” meaning a condition that’s relatively harmless.
Because the thyroid controls so much of the body’s processes, anything that tampers with this balance could cause unexpected or unpleasant changes in moods, energy levels, or even sudden weight loss or gain. Being required to have the same medication for the rest of your life can be disappointing.
Plus, some thyroid cancers have a high rate of recurrences, such as new nodes growing. So a treatment plan can involve regular check-ups and blood tests. Someone who has some or all of their thyroid removed also will require blood tests and medication monitoring to make sure various levels are consistent.
This month is an excellent time to learn more.
September is Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month, an opportunity to increase awareness, find out about research into various risk factors and treatment options, and generally become more educated on what seems to be an increasingly common type of cancer.
Some suspect a reason for this increase isn’t necessarily because there are more cases, but because technology has made it easier to detect many of the smaller cancerous cells that may have been missed in the past. So in this context, an increased number of cases is a good thing.
Thyroid advocates have been commemorating Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month since 2000. It was started by the Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association, a non-profit organization that focuses on creating a global network of cancer survivors and health care providers. It also encourages and supports research into possible treatments, and also lets survivors know about available support services in their area.