The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck that produces hormones. These hormones regulate vital bodily functions, such as your body’s heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, and metabolic rate.
Your thyroid is made up of follicular cells and c-cells, both of which have the potential to become cancerous. When a cell is cancerous, its DNA is damaged. But rather than dying, the cells reproduce and develop tumors. Because of advancements in technology, many thyroid cancers are detected early. Thankfully, most thyroid cancers are very treatable, and the prognosis is generally good for patients undergoing thyroid cancer therapy.
While anyone can develop thyroid cancer, family history, and other risk factors can increase your susceptibility. The most significant risk factors associated with thyroid cancer are:
About 20% of the instances of a type of thyroid cancer called medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) result from inherited mutations in the RET gene. Inherited MTC can develop as early as childhood.
Genetic testing, blood tests, and ultrasounds are recommended for early detection of the disease. Even if you did not inherit a mutation of the RET gene, having a close relative with a history of thyroid cancer puts you at greater risk of developing the disease.
Women are about three times more likely to experience thyroid cancer than men. Additionally, women tend to develop the disease at an earlier age. According to the American Cancer Society, most women with thyroid cancer are diagnosed in their 40s or 50s, while men tend to develop the disease in their 60s or 70s.
Lack of Iodine
Populations that do not get sufficient iodine in their diet are more susceptible to follicular thyroid cancer. Iodine insufficiency is rarely a problem in the United States, where iodine is added to table salt.
People who have had radiation exposure during head or neck treatments are more prone to developing thyroid cancer than others, especially if the exposure happened during childhood. This can happen from X-rays, CT or PET scans, radiation therapy, or exposure to radiation in certain workplaces. There is also a certain amount of natural background radiation in the environment.
Other Risk Factors
Other risk factors for thyroid cancer include obesity and smoking. These factors can be mitigated in some individuals with lifestyle changes and nutritional counseling. Many people with one or more risk factors for thyroid cancer do not develop the disease. However, if you know that you have a risk factor, you should be especially vigilant with your health and have your thyroid tested as directed by your doctor.
Treatments for Thyroid Cancer
In most instances of thyroid cancer, the prognosis is extremely good with chemotherapy. At Beacon Clinic, we offer onsite chemotherapy infusions and oral chemotherapy that can be taken at home.
Immunotherapy treatments focus on supporting your body’s immune system to increase its ability to fight cancer. Beacon Clinic provides IV immunotherapy treatments, often in combination with chemotherapy.
Occasionally, radiation therapy may be appropriate to assist in the treatment of thyroid cancer. Beacon Clinic offers radiation therapy services at our Post Falls location with Dr. Jonathan Sharrett and his team.
Supportive Services and Clinical Testing
At Beacon Clinic, we offer an integrative approach to addressing thyroid cancer that includes targeting the cancerous cells and supporting the patient through rehabilitation services and palliative care, as applicable. In addition, our patients sometimes have the opportunity to participate in clinical trials, which gives them the ability to receive the latest treatments prior to FDA approval for general use. Patients participating in clinical trials help the medical community advance its understanding of cancer.
Our approach to treating cancer is designed to support our patients with the highest level of care and compassion. To learn more about the treatments we offer for thyroid cancer or any other type of cancer, contact Beacon Clinic.