Outcomes Are Favorable for Those Diagnosed With Thyroid Cancer
Detection often occurs at the primary care level
They’re the three words no one wants to hear: You have cancer. “It is definitely a daunting moment for anyone who gets a cancer diagnosis,” says Joseph Puzzi, MD, otolaryngologist with Boran and Puzzi, Ear, Nose and Throat Associates, Pottsville. “The good news is that the cure rate is very high for thyroid cancer, since it is usually detected early and treatment occurs quickly,” he says.
The thyroid gland sits low in the front of the neck, positioned just below your Adam’s apple. It produces hormones that regulate metabolism as well as heart and digestive function. The thyroid affects energy levels, mood, weight, and can even factor into conditions like depression.
Detecting thyroid cancer
Thyroid cancer is typically symptom-free. It is most often detected when a primary care provider finds a nodule (an abnormal lump) during a routine physical examination of the thyroid, or it is found on an imaging study obtained for another reason.
To confirm a diagnosis, a combination of technologies is used, such as needle biopsy, ultrasound-guided biopsy or other imaging studies. If thyroid cancer is confirmed, treatment typically involves partial or complete removal of the thyroid (partial or total thyroidectomy).
“It is delicate surgery because of the proximity of the thyroid to the larynx (voice box) and nerves that trigger the vocal cords. It is a common, yet major surgery,” Puzzi says.
Patients who have a total thyroidectomy will be prescribed thyroid hormone replacement tablets. Within six weeks of a total thyroidectomy, patients will have a nuclear iodine scan to determine if radioactive iodine ablation is needed.
“The important thing to remember is that when we are able to diagnose and treat thyroid cancer in its earliest stages, the outcome for patients is greatly improved,” Puzzi says.