Thyroid cancer is one of the few cancers that is actually on the rise in the U.S. — and that fact has given rise to a debate: is there actually more thyroid cancer, or is there just better detection? (The New York Times had an interesting piece on this.)
The good news (if we can say that in conjuction with cancer!)? Most of the common forms of thyroid cancer are highly treatable and survivable. (Here are some stats from the American Cancer Society.)
There is a great deal of attention on risk factors, symptoms, detection, and treatments — the Thyroid Cancer Survivor’s Association (ThyCa) does a good job getting the word out, and sharing information about these issues. Every September, they have an annual Thyroid Cancer Conference — this year’s conferences is September 27-29 in Philadelphia.
But the issue that seems to get the least attention is perhaps in some ways the most important one: after you’ve had surgery to remove your thyroid, a person is hypothyroid for life. That means that symptoms of hypothyroidism can develop, related issues (weight gain, hair loss, fatigue, depression, and others) can show up and need to be resolved. It means a lifetime of taking thyroid hormone replacement medications, making sure you’re on the right dosage and the right medications to safely resolve symptoms. And for some thyroid cancer patients, they need to be on higher doses — known as “suppression” — to help prevent cancer recurrence, which can even make them feel hyperthyroid, and cause a whole new list of symptoms.
I invite thyroid cancer survivors to take advantage of all the information about hypothyroidism offered by the National Academy on Hypothyroidism. Join the Forums, where you can find information and support among other thyroid patients. And remember that the “standard” treatment of hypothyroidism that has historically left the majority of patients — including thyroid cancer survivors — with suboptimal treatment for their hypothyroidism.
The National Academy of Hypothyroidism is working to change that, by helping educate physicians, empower patients, advocate for changes in the way hypothyroidism is treated, so that we all can feel and live well.