Archive for the ‘Thyroid Cancer’ Category

What is Follicular Thyroid Cancer? Thyroid Health Implications

Monday, August 18th, 2014

Thyroid cancer, of any type, can be a life changing health complication and has become increasingly more common in recent years. For many thyroid sufferers, when thyroid cancer is diagnosed early, the survival rate is quite high and often does not pose life threatening health complications. If you have been diagnose with follicular thyroid cancer, it is important to become familiar with not only your treatment but also what this type of thyroid cancer is and how it differs from other forms of cancer.

Follicular thyroid cancer, while not the most common type of thyroid cancer, is quite progressive and, when diagnosed with it, can be the one type of cancer that can lead to life threatening complications should any arise. When you have a diagnosis of follicular thyroid cancer, therefore, you will want to be sure that you are monitoring this type of cancer more closely than what other patients, with different types of thyroid cancer, may be monitored.

Tumors associated with follicular thyroid cancer often become vascularized and can then invade other parts of the thyroid gland, even spreading to other parts of the body by way of the cardiovascular system. When diagnosed with follicular thyroid cancer, therefore, you will want to be sure you are getting regular testing to determine what other risks for cancer you may have. When the complication of metastasis develops, the greatest risk seems to occur in the lungs and lymph nodes so these are the areas that need to be the most closely watched.

When diagnosed with follicular thyroid cancer, your doctor may initially recommend that you have only the area of your thyroid removed where the cancer has developed. However, because follicular thyroid cancer is the most progressive type of cancer, it is often considered most healthy to simply remove the entire thyroid gland and then begin radiation therapy accordingly. In the long term, this may pose the least possible health risk for recurring cancer.

In an age where medical technology and medicine has advanced, many more adults are being diagnosed with thyroid disorders, including thyroid cancer. If you have been diagnosed with follicular thyroid cancer, it is important to speak with your doctor about the progressive nature of this malignancy, what long term benefits you can get from aggressive surgery, and how to monitor for a possible spread of disease.

Sources: Thyroid Cancer: A Guide for Patients, by D. Van Nostrand, pp. 89-93.

What to Expect During a Thyroid Biopsy

Monday, August 18th, 2014

There are two different types of Thyroid Biopsies that your doctor may order. The most common is called a Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA), the second is called a Core Needle Biopsy (CNB).

Both are done as an outpatient and only takes a few minutes. Your doctor may order one or the other depending on what they are looking for. Thyroid biopsies are used to determine cancer as well as other problems. If you have any nodules in or around your Thyroid, your doctor may order a biopsy to check for cancer in the nodules.

Before a Thyroid Biopsy your doctor may order an ultrasound of your neck, this will help the radiologist find the nodule or part of the thyroid your doctor wants the biopsy done on. Ultrasounds are painless and are usually completed in just a few minutes.

On the day of your biopsy you will not need to do anything differently than usual. The procedure usually takes less than thirty minutes, but you will need someone to go with you and drive you home. This procedure is usually done at a Radiologists office with a local anesthetic. You will be asked to change into a hospital gown and brought into a room with an ultrasound machine. You be asked to lie on the bed with a small pillow under the back of your neck. You will have to raise your chin so that your neck is more exposed. The Radiologist will have an assistant in the room to help get supplies while doing the biopsy.

You will be given an injection of Lidocaine into the area that’s going to be biopsied, which does burn when injected but numbs the area relatively fast. An ultrasound is often used during the biopsy as a guide to help the radiologist find where to insert the needle and take the sample. During a FNA a small needle is inserted into the Thyroid or nodule and a small amount is extracted and put on glass slides so they can be examined. The needle may be inserted several times to get a large enough sample.

During a Core Needle Biopsy (CNB) a small incision about an inch long, will be made and a biopsy needle will be inserted through the incision to get a sample of the thyroid. Several samples in different areas of the thyroid may be taken through the incision. Stitches are not usually needed to close the incision as it is so small.

After the procedure, the radiologists assistant will have you lie there with a small bag of ice on your neck for a few minutes. If you are feeling good after a few minutes, and there is no excess bleeding they will apply a small bandage to the area, give you another bag of ice and you are sent home.

You can expect the area to be sore for a few days, an over the counter pain medicine like Tylenol will help. Your doctor should have the results ready for you in about a week. A small amount of bruising, swelling and tenderness are the most common side effects.

Ways to Manage Your Thyroid Disease

Monday, August 18th, 2014

Symptoms of thyroid disease can mimic other disorders and often go undiagnosed. My journey to diagnosis began with a trip to the eye doctor when I began to experience severe sensitivity to light. Recognizing this as a symptom of thyroid disease, my optometrist sent me for an ultrasound of my neck. They found a nodule and told me to have my doctor keep an eye on it. Several years later, I began experiencing hair loss, mood swings, weight fluctuations and forgetfulness. After testing me for everything from a hormone problem to a brain tumor, my doctor finally listened to me and ordered a TSH test. This tests your thyroid levels to see if you have a thyroid condition. Knowing about the nodule helped us to decide to do a thyroid biopsy when my test showed that I was hypothyroid. Though it is an uncommon occurrence, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. A thyroidectomy, removal of my thyroid, and radioactive iodine treatments followed. This left me with no thyroid which is as hypothyroid as one can be.

Following surgery, I was prescribed synthroid, calcium supplements and blood pressure medication to ease the symptoms. I assumed the synthroid would manage any symptoms and looked forward to feeling normal again. What my endocrinologist didn’t tell me was that many of the symptoms I had been experiencing would never go away or that I would face a whole new batch that I hadn’t had before. As a six year thyroid cancer survivor, I have found many things that help alleviate the symptoms of hypothyroidism and have learned the importance of taking care of myself. If you have recently experienced the removal of your thyroid or have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, my experiences could help you learn to live well with a thyroid disorder.

Will I gain weight?
Weight Gain seems to be the biggest concern of many who are diagnosed with hypothyroidism. In my personal experience, I gained weight quickly following surgery but lost it rapidly once I was established in my synthroid regimen. Since that time, I find that my weight fluctuates drastically, sometimes on a daily basis. Water retention has been an ongoing problem since I lost my thyroid and a water pill helped me ease this problem. I also find that my appetite is inconsistent. I can go for weeks without ever feeling truly hungry and often have to remind myself that I need to eat. This causes my body to go into starvation mode and I have belly weight because of it. In order to combat this I eat mini-meals frequently through the day. I don’t feel overly full and I get the nutrition my body needs. It also appears to boost my metabolism and I feel hungry on my own. Vitamins can also help you get the nutrients your body needs. This will help both those with no appetites and those with overeating problems. As a thyroid patient, you should talk to your doctor before taking any medication because it can interfere with your thyroid treatments. Even some multivitamins can weaken the effectiveness of synthroid or other medications. Let your doctor help you chose one that is right for you.

Why do I feel so tired?
From the moment I developed symptoms, I was plagued by bouts of exhaustion. I still have days of sluggishness and always tire easily. I do this when my TSH levels are at their best, so I am not certain I will ever be at full force again. There are a few things that help though. First and foremost, mention your fatigue to your doctor. If your thyroid levels are off, you cannot combat the tiredness. Second, if you also have feelings of sadness or mood swings, you may also be suffering depression. It is common in those with thyroid disease. Read more about that here. If your doctor has done all they can and you still feel tired, you should consider a change in your diet. I found that a diet rich in iron, protein and calcium helps me feel more energetic. Make sure you are eating enough and stay away from fast food and overly processed foods. I also found that a sublingual B12 supplement gave me much needed energy. Make sure you get the “sublingual” as they dissolve under your tongue and absorb quickly. Moderate exercise may help you as well. Start with just 10-15 minutes a day and see how much better you will feel.

I am still struggling with hypothyroidism and these tips will by no means cure your symptoms, but they can make them more manageable. Weight changes, mood swings, fatigue, coldness and even aches and pains may be an extension of your thyroid disease. But, they may often be caused by something else. Try to find a physician who listens to your concerns. Always inform them of any symptoms you have. If you feel they are part of another problem, be persistent in asking for additional tests. The best thing you can do is to take excellent care of yourself. Eat well, sleep well and take time to relax. Thyroid disease is a part of your life but it does not have to control it.

Additional Resources
American Cancer Society thyroid information Excellent thyroid resource

Total Thyroidectomy: Making the Decision to Have Your Thyroid Removed

Monday, August 18th, 2014

Having a total thyroidectomy done to remove your thyroid can sound very scary, and rightly so. It is a big decision that will affect your health for the rest of your life, but one that is often necessary and beneficial. Certain thyroid conditions or diseases, such as thyroid cancer, painful thyroiditis, goiter, hyperthyroidism caused by a nodule, or others, are sometimes best treated by removing your thyroid and then taking thyroid hormone replacement medication for the rest of your life.

Why I Decided to Have My Thyroid Removed. In my case, the decision to have a total thyroidectomy done was not made quickly or lightly, but became one of necessity. I have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and had been very sick for four and a half years before it was recommended that I have my thyroid removed. My Hashimoto’s had not taken a normal course of just leading to hypothyroidism, but instead took a horrific course of swinging back and forth between hypothyroid, euthyroid, and hyperthyroid. I’ve had severe phases of hyperthyroidism, called Hashitoxicosis, that has put me in the hospital twice. With the second phase, I even developed Graves Disease antibodies, which technically means I had both Hashimoto’s and Graves for a while, though it was not really true Graves Disease because the Graves antibodies went away.

After the second phase of Hashitoxicosis, it was decided that it would be best to kill off my thyroid with Radioactive Iodine Treatment as soon as my body went hyperthyroid again. We thought this would happen quickly, but six months passed and my body was staying borderline hypothyroid to euthyroid and I was staying sick. That’s when my regular doctor said she didn’t think we should wait any longer, but should move forward with a thyroidectomy instead. I agreed and talked to my endocrinologist about it.

My endocrinologist also agreed and wanted to take it one step further to also doing thyroid ablation (a different form of Radioactive Iodine Treatment) on the small amount of thyroid tissue that would be left to protect my parathyroids after my thyroid was removed. The ablation would be done to make sure there was no chance of me having another phase of Hashitoxicosis, causing severe hyperthyroidism again. I agreed with the treatment plan that my endocrinologist wanted to go with and made a consultation appointment with a surgeon experienced in doing thyroidectomies.

I was comfortable with the surgeon and chose to go forward with having a thyroidectomy done. I am currently in the post-op recovery stage and am very hopeful that after recovery, ablation, and the thyroid hormone replacement medication adjustment phase, my health, and life, will be much better.

My Total Thyroidectomy Recommendation. The decision to have a total thyroidectomy done is a big one that should not be taken lightly, but may very well be the best treatment for your thyroid disease or condition. If you have decided to have your thyroid removed, I highly recommend that you find a great thyroid surgeon. I truly believe that having a great surgeon is one of the most important factors involved in the thyroidectomy and your recovery going well. For tips on finding a great thyroid surgeon, you can read my article Thyroidectomy – Choosing a Thyroid Surgeon.

Related Content:

Thyroidectomy – Preparing for Thyroid Surgery

Thyroid Nodules Symptoms and Treatments

Monday, August 18th, 2014

What is meant by thyroid nodules is fluid filled lumps. These are of course, on your thyroid. And most of these are harmless, meaning they don’t contain cancer cells. They get troublesome if they grow into your windpipe. When that happens, you will have difficulty eating since swallowing becomes very difficult.

The treatment you will receive for your thyroid nodule all depends upon what kind of nodule you have. The common symptoms of thyroid nodules are being able to feel them, and also there is going to be an obvious swollen neck.

Some of the thyroid nodules put out too much thyroxine. Thyroxine is a hormone that we have which is put out by your thyroid gland. When there is an overproduction of thyroxine present, you could experience such things as, (1) feeling anxious and nervous, (2) weight loss without even trying, and (3) heartbeats are not regular.

If, on the rare chance that a nodule does contain cancer cells, there would be symptoms such as, (1) rapid growth of nodule, (2) trouble swallowing or with breathing,and (3) lymph nodes in the jaw or neck are really big in size.

Thyroid nodules are often caused sometimes by a lack of iodine in the diet. Other related thyroid problems may also cause these things to occur. Hypothyroidism which is an underactive thyroid, or Hashimoto’s disease, are two other common causes.

Sometimes genetics play roles in the lack of thyroid stimulating hormones being produced.

Treating the thyroid nodule will depend on what type of nodule you have. There are several options available.

One of the things doctors might do is wait and see. If a biopsy of the nodule proves to be negative, then your physician may choose to watch it. Another biopsy may need to be done later if the nodule grows in size.

Levoxyl and Synthroid are two kinds of thyroid drug therapies taken orally. These drugs will help the pituitary gland in the brain to put out less TSH. The drugs may or may not shrink your nodules.

If your nodule is of the hyperfunctioning adenomas or multinodular goiter types, it is likely that a radioactive iodine may be used. This treatment has been very effective in the past and has caused the nodules to become greatly reduced in their size.

They can do surgery if the nodules show malignancy. This is usually where a thyroidectomy is performed, which means removal of the thyroid gland. They may take some of the thyroid, or part of the thyroid depending on the circumstances. Once you have a thyroidectomy, you’ll need medications to replace the thyroid hormone for a lifetime.