Thyroid Cancer on the Rise


In the last 35 years, the incidence of thyroid cancer has increased from 4.9 cases per 100,000 people to 14.3 cases. There also has been a 15 percent increase in women. Last year there were more thyroid cancer cases diagnosed than leukemia, pancreatic and liver cancers combined.

Experts believe the rise in thyroid cancer could be the combined result of better medical procedures or improved thyroid imaging that increase detection and unrecognized thyroid-specific carcinogens, such as radiation, increased iodine intake and chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis and environmental pollutants like nitrates, heavy metals and compounds used in factories. Other reasons are hereditary conditions and iodine deficiency, which is rare in the U.S. because of iodized salts.

Recent findings have shown up to one-third of the population may unknowingly harbor thyroid cancer.

The thyroid gland is the body’s engine driver; it manufactures the thyroid hormone that is used to fuel metabolism and oversees the activities of other critical hormones produced elsewhere. When the amount of thyroid hormone is unbalanced – too much hormone causes hyperthyroidism, too little, hypothyroidism – it can wreak havoc in the body.

The thyroid gland also is very sensitive to radiation; it is a leading risk factor for the condition, especially if exposure occurred during childhood. Additionally, the thyroid can be inadvertently exposed during high-dose radiation therapy targeted to treat other types of cancer, particularly if the radioactive beam enters an area close to the gland such as the chest, neck and head, or from total body radiation used prior to bone marrow transplantation. Many believe routine X-rays also could damage the thyroid and a patient should wear a lead thyroid shield when getting X-rays.

What makes Thyroid cancer an undetected killer is the fact it usually doesn’t produce symptoms. Nodules, which are small bumps of tissue in and about the thyroid,  rarely ever cause any trouble. They are just benign irregularities and most develop a thyroid nodule by the time they are 60 years old.

However, some nodules can be cancerous, but generally not life threatening. A few studies have shown cancerous nodules are a common finding when autopsies are performed on people who died from other causes. Only one in 20 nodules is cancerous.

If a patient has difficulty swallowing, sore throat or a pain in the neck, hoarseness, persistent cough or trouble breathing, they should see a doctor immediately. Most cancers detected early have a high success rate and 90 percent of people are disease free after treatment.

Surgical Associates of Marshall County offers treatment for conditions of the thyroid with minimally invasive thyroid surgery in Albertville and Guntersville, Alabama.

When a malfunctioning or cancerous thyroid does not respond to other forms of treatment, full or partial removal of the thyroid (thyroidectomy) may be necessary. At Surgical Associates of Marshall County, our experienced surgeons offer the latest options for thyroid surgery to help you find the safest and most effective form of treatment.

If you suffer from thyroid cancer, the success of thyroid surgery in treatment is largely dependent on the severity and spread of the condition. Follow-up treatments like chemotherapy, radiation therapy or additional surgery may be needed to ensure that all cancer cells are eliminated.

Thyroid surgery is considered a very safe procedure. However, removal of the gland will deprive the body of the thyroid’s essential hormones. After total thyroidectomy, you will need to take synthetic thyroid hormone indefinitely, while lobectomy and subtotal thyroidectomy may also make this necessary.

Don’t delay call our Albertville location at 256.840.5547 or Guntersville office at 256.571.8734 to schedule your consultation today.

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