Thyroid Cancer - A Patient's Story
At 29 years of age, she had just delivered her first child, who was then six weeks old. Her husband noticed a swelling on her neck and after a scan and a needle test of the lump, the doctor broke the news: "I'm sorry, the lump in your neck is a thyroid cancer." For this young mother the world was challenging enough right now, what with breast feeding her first child. Now she would have to deal with undergoing treatment for cancer.
Thyroid cancer is three times more common in women than men.Its cause is not fully understood but it is associated
radiation exposure. For example, the radiation fallout at Chernobyl in 1986 correlated with a significant increase
a decade later in thyroid cancer diagnoses among children who had been exposed to radiation. There is also a known
familial risk if someone in the family has been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. In the medullary type of thyroid
cancer, genetic testing has such a high predictive value that individuals at risk are advised to have thyroid surgery to prevent cancer development. Fortunately, the majority of the thyroid cancers have no familial link and
the prognosis is excellent.
However, my clinical experience has brought many unexpected surprises overthe years such that one cannot make any assumption in the treatment of patients’ thyroid cancers.