Sunday, July 17, 2011

One In Four

Day 1, June 22, 2011

Diagnosis: Papillary Carcinoma

What? Over 99% of all thyroid nodules are benign! I have thyroid cancer? I am one of the less than 1%, how is this possible? Numbness. Shock. Okay, I can do this. What the heck is a thyroid and do I need it? I need surgery and then maybe radiated iodine chemotherapy and a daily hormone pill for the rest of my life. Don't worry. This is the best cancer to get, it's treatable and not fatal. It can spread to the lymph nodes in the neck. I need to write things down. I need to do some research. My doctor says not to despair.

Day 2, June 23, 2011

I told two friends. I haven't cried. My doctor calls it a "smoldering" cancer because it is slow-growing. Most probably it has been with me for years. I had no symptoms. It was hard to sleep tonight.

Day 3, Jun 24, 2011

Today I had bloodwork for my ENT appointment, then downtown for scheduled medical tests and to get a Shingles vaccination. I am having a reaction to the shot, a large oval-shaped rash, which seems to be spreading, like an allergic reaction. To make my day complete I break my little toe while doing housework. Really?

What I know so far...

The thyroid is one of the largest endocrine glands.

"The thyroid gland controls how quickly the body uses energy, makes proteins, and controls how sensitive the body should be to other hormones. It participates in these processes by producing thyroid hormones, the principal ones being triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). These hormones regulate the rate of metabolism and affect the growth and rate of function of many other systems in the body. T3 and T4 are synthesized from both iodine and tyrosine. The thyroid also produces calcitonin, which plays a role in calcium homeostasis." (from Wikipedia)

Some symptoms that may be attributed to thyroid problems or diseases:
Hoarseness, neck pain, lethargy, weight gain and inability to lose weight, swelling in neck lymph nodes, hormonal swings.

I will meet with my Ear, Nose & Throat doctor once he returns from his vacation and I return from mine. Yea....

July 11, 2011
Follow up appointment with my ENT doctor.

My husband and I met with my doctor. My cancer is Stage 1, my lymph nodes are clear. My only treatment option is surgery. My son-in-law, an internist, agrees. My doctor and his partner can do the surgery. They perform this surgery together several times a month and my doctor has an eight year history in the surgery. At risk are the four parathyroid glands which control the amount of calcium in the blood and bones. One only needs 1/2 of one gland still functioning, so the risk is minimal that all glands would be non-functioning after surgery. Another risk is damage to the vocal chords. Hoarseness maybe a temporary or permanent condition.

How did I get this disease? The school of thought is that it develops in those who have had radiation to the head and neck area. I am puzzled. I have dental x-rays once a year. No, that radiation is not the cause, as it is a concentrated and focused dosage in the mouth and jaw area only. I had a neck injury in the early 1980's and have consulted many different doctors over the years. Maybe there were x-rays involved. I do not recall.

After surgery I must take a daily thyroid hormone for the rest of my life, with regular follow-ups with an endricronologist, to monitor hormone levels.

Some additional statistics:

Thyroid papillary carcinoma is the most common thyroid cancer, commonly manifesting between the ages of 30 and 50 years old. There are on average, 37,000 new thyroid cancer cases each year in the United States. Females are the gender that are most likely to have papillary carcinoma of the thyroid. The ratio of women to men is three to one.

My next step is to meet with an endrocrinologist next month.

My message to you:

Have your yearly physical. Schedule the tests your doctor recommends. Ask your doctor to examine your thyroid.

Stay healthy!