It is always appropriate to focus on cancers related to women. Apart from cancers affecting the female reproductive organs ( cervical, ovarian and breast cancers), thyroid cancers are far more common in women than men. Similarly, a small percentage of these cancers are known to run in families. This requires screening among family members after a genetic test ( for medullary cancer thyroid).It is however heartening to know that contrary to other cancers mentioned above, majority of thyroid cancers have good prognosis and excellent survival.
Then why must women know about Thyroid Cancers?
Throughout their lifetime, women undergo several hormonal changes inturn affecting the hormonal balance of the thyroid. This commonly results into enlargement of the thyroid gland called goitre. Approximately 10% of goitres further progress into malignancy. Amongst those which are denovo, although indolent, the tumour progresses in size, extends to adjacent lymph glands and has the potential to spread to distant sites. Location of the thyroid gland is such that neglect of the swelling harbouring malignancy could potentially affect surrounding structures. This could result into difficulty in swallowing ( affection of the foodpipe), change in voice ( affection of the nerve supplying the voicebox) and if further neglected affects the windpipe causing breathing difficulty.
What is the best cure for Thyroid Cancer?
As is true with other cancers, especially in women there is a delay in seeking medical advice often resulting into presentation with advanced stage.
‘Appropriate’ surgery remains the key. Since this cancer has excellent survival, an inappropriate surgery could result into lifelong sequel of complications which leaves the patient distressed (low calcium levels, hoarseness, aspiration). Furthermore incomplete surgery also leads to multiple recurrences and agony to the patient.
Contrary to the behaviour of other cancers, thyroid cancers are curable even when they spread to distant sites ( lung etc). This is because the thyroid cells are avid to iodine and such metastasis can be cured with radioactive iodine following complete loco regional surgery.