7 Things You Can Do Against Thyroid Cancer Here in ABQ
Anything with the big C attached to it is outright frightening. This Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month, let us try to understand one of the fastest growing cancers in the US.
The increasing numbers are mainly due to technology and the overall ability of clinicians in the early detection of the disease. The good news though is – just like with any other form of cancer, screening, early detection, and prevention is vital for long-term survival. To date, the 5-year survival rate for thyroid cancer is at 98%.
From 2014 to 2018, thyroid cancer ranked as the 5th most common cancer among women in New Mexico. To date, statistics from the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) predict that 43,800 people living in the United States will be diagnosed with thyroid cancer by 2022 (a number largely attributed to increased awareness and screening for the disease). Do note, however, that thyroid cancer is the most common cancer among women aged 30 and below, and the second most common cancer among women aged 30 to 45 years old.
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ located in front of the neck, at the base of the throat. With the aid of iodine from the diet, the thyroid gland performs functions related to metabolism, growth, and development of the human body. It is also responsible for hormone production in response to environmental changes as well as in pregnancy.
Types of Thyroid Cancer
There are four main types of thyroid cancer. Let’s take a brief look at these types.
1. Papillary thyroid cancer
This is the most common type of thyroid cancer, accounting for 85% of all cases. Early detection is the key to long-term survival rates. It usually affects both men and women between the ages of 30 to 50 and is very responsive to treatment. Only a small percent of papillary thyroid cancers are aggressive.\
2. Follicular thyroid cancer
This type of cancer is common among people aged 50 and above. Its metastatic spread doesn’t always include the lymph nodes, but it usually spreads to the lungs and bones. Follicular thyroid cancers are slow-growing and associated with a good prognosis.
3. Medullary thyroid cancer
This is one of the rare types of thyroid cancer. It begins in thyroid cells called C cells which are responsible for the production of calcitonin. Unexplained high levels of calcitonin raise suspicions about this type of cancer. Medullary cancer can also be caused by a gene called RET, making it a very highly inheritable disease.
4. Anaplastic thyroid cancer
This type of cancer is common in people over the age of 60, and it spreads rapidly throughout the body, making it relatively difficult to treat in some instances. Treatments can still slow disease progression in patients with anaplastic thyroid cancer, so early detection is very important. It often causes symptoms such as rapid neck swelling that complicates difficulty swallowing and difficulty breathing.
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Risk Factors for Thyroid Cancer
The thing is, most people with thyroid cancer have no known risk factors. There are a few things, however, that are believed to pose a greater risk for thyroid cancer than others:
- Female sex – it is believed by experts that the hormone estrogen plays a huge role in the development of thyroid cancer. People who are born female are especially at risk for thyroid cancer.
- Radiation exposure – radiation therapy treatments can also be a culprit. People who are frequently exposed to radiation in the workplace are also very ideal candidates for regular thyroid cancer screening.
- Inherited cancer syndromes – genetic syndromes such as familial medullary thyroid cancer, multiple endocrine neoplasia, Cowden syndrome, and familial adenomatous polyposis can also cause predisposition to thyroid cancer.
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What We Can Do
With the threat of thyroid cancer, people within high-risk groups can still do something! So, what can we do to help reduce our chances of the disease?
1. Education is key
If there is one thing we need to give special emphasis on in thyroid cancer prevention, it is always, ALWAYS, to educate yourself on the disease. Awareness raises suspicion on the smallest palpable mass which leads to a visit to your direct primary care center, and subsequent screening procedures thereafter.
2. Minimize exposure to any possible source of radiation
Be aware of your surroundings. Also, if your clinician does not warrant you to have an x-ray or a CT scan after a minor fall injury, do not insist on having one. Do not force your pediatrician for scans on your little one if it is not necessary. Thyroid cancer is linked to high levels of radiation exposure, especially during childhood. On the other hand, if you are working in an environment highly exposed to radiation, always wear protective gear and never miss out on covering your neck with a lead gown accessory.
3. Know your family history
It pays to know your roots. Dig into the nitty gritty details of sickness among family members and be curious enough to know the official diagnosis. If a family member has a suspicious mass, convince them to have it checked right away at a reliable primary care clinic. Several forms of cancer syndromes predispose people to thyroid cancer. A short interview with relatives might be very useful on your end.
4. Do self-monitoring and regular wellness visits
You can never go wrong with self-monitoring and regular wellness visits. Normal results will leave you at peace, abnormal results can be initially surprising or unexpected but in the long run, help you plan how to go about and live with the disease or disorder. Always make room for personal check-ups and open up even the slightest health concerns with your healthcare provider. This is why you need a direct primary care clinic that you can fully trust, and that can commit to helping your overall wellbeing.
5. Don’t forget to ask about a thyroid ultrasound during your wellness visits
There may be times when your clinician skips checking the thyroid because you have no significant family history related to it. You can politely request to add thyroid function tests or even a simple thyroid ultrasound occasionally just to keep everything in check. Remember, most thyroid cancer patients do not have identifiable risks.
6. Live out that healthy lifestyle
This one may be difficult to achieve, with the kind of environment and society we are in. But it is never too late to start early! Your body will reward you for it. Thyroid cancer, especially follicular thyroid cancer, has been linked to low iodine levels in the diet despite speculations that iodine supplementation can also cause a temporary increase in thyroid cancer incidence.
Moreover, iodine deficiency is specifically associated with more aggressive types such as follicular and anaplastic cancers.
So be sure that you have just enough iodine in your diet. There are also some vegetables that may be linked with thyroid cancer. It is best to ask your healthcare provider about the disadvantages of cruciferous veggies such as brussel sprouts and cabbage and the reason why they may be bad news for people at risk for thyroid cancer.
7. Get a very good healthcare plan
This cannot be stressed enough! Everyone needs the best healthcare plan there is – one that is comprehensive, innovative, and top-tier. One that can efficiently improve health outcomes and increase overall productivity at an affordable price. Direct primary care does this for you. And it is available right here and right now at ABQ! Direct primary care helps you not just become increasingly aware of diseases, but it also helps you regularly screen against those diseases. If you are from ABQ, drop us a call now so we can sit and talk about it!