Endocrinology-Diabetes Questions Thyroid Cancer

Should I be checked for thyroid cancer?

My mom (68) was just diagnosed with thyroid cancer. What can I do to protect my own health? I go to my doctor every year for a physical and get bloodwork done. Is there anything extra I can do?

9 Answers

There are generally four types of cancer of the thyroid: Papillary, Follicular, Anaplastic, and Medullary. The only one that might have a hereditary factor is Medullary. I doubt this is the case as it is quite rare.
Your mother will do well, and you do not need to worry much.
So sorry to hear your mother has thyroid cancer. How is she doing? How are YOU doing?

Thyroid cancer, like many cancers is rare. Also like other cancers, it comes in a variety of different types depending on the underlying tissue: Papillary thyroid carcinoma, follicular thyroid carcinoma, medullary thyroid carcinoma, anaplastic thyroid carcinoma.

Some thyroid cancers (namely medullary thyroid carcinoma aka MTC) have underlying genetic syndromes associated with them. In this case, it is very important to have genetic testing done, and in many cases preventive thyroid surgery. The other thyroid cancers have some genetic component but no available commercial genetic testing.

However, if you're like many, the most common is papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC). This is potentially curable by thyroid removal and depending on the extent of cell spread can be treated with radioactive iodine.

The biggest risk factors for thyroid cancers are exposure to radiation in the neck area (ie: treatment for other cancers like lymphoma, etc).

To protect yourself, I would recommend becoming familiar with the thyroid by looking and feeling it in the mirror. Doing a daily (or at least weekly) thyroid neck exam on yourself is a nice preventive tool. Much like doing a self breast exam, this would note any new lumps/bumps or changes day to day. Should you notice a change, then an ultrasound could be done to confirm an abnormality.

Routine ultrasound screening is generally not recommended given how common thyroid nodules are. Less than 5% are cancerous.

I value people knowing their body and in your case, becoming familiar with your thyroid and neck area is the best method of protecting yourself.

Let me know if you have other questions!

Excellent question. Seeing an endocrinologist for evaluation would likely involve a thorough neck exam and likely, a thyroid ultrasound to assess for any thyroid nodules.
Screening thyroid ultrasound and labs should be enough.
You should ask your doctor to order a thyroid sonogram to assess if you have any thyroid nodules that need to followed. Lovely or biopsied.
First, you should be certain of the type of thyroid cancer your mother has. The most common is is papillary thyroid cancer, and this is not considered to be inherited, although there are very rare cases of this type being passed through families. Medullary thyroid cancer is a rare type of thyroid cancer that is inherited in most cases.

A thorough annual exam, including neck exam is recommended for everyone, with or without a family history of thyroid cancer. Self-examinations are explained in pamphlets offered by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists.

Thyroid cancer may develop in patients with a normal, over and under functioning thyroid gland. There is no routine lab that can screen for thyroid cancer. If a neck lump is felt, your healthcare provider should order a neck ultrasound. There are no vitamins, herbs, or supplements that can lower your risk of thyroid cancer.

Enjoy an active and healthy lifestyle. Know that most patients with thyroid cancer do very well. Keep a close professional relationship with your doctor(s), ask them questions, and follow their advice.
Yes it is advisable for you to get yearly or every two yearly an ultrasound of your Thyroid. If any time point in life you develop nodules in your Thyroid they should be further examined by an Endocrinologist or a Nuclear Medicine Expert.

From the standpoint of Naturopathic Medicine it is advisable to take regular Iodine Supplements because the Iodized Salt is not enough for the requirement of many people.
Tests of the blood for thyroid cancer are not as yet as refined as we want so are not specific. See your Dr. at least yearly and be sure he or she does a palpation of your neck for lumps in the thyroid. If they feel anything at all or there is any suspicion, have a thyroid sonogram. Any suspicious mass or lump should be biopsied. Watch closely but don't be afraid. Thyroid cancer picked up early is curable.
First and foremost, the type of cancer is important when we are thinking about genetics. If it is medullary carcinoma, yoo definitely have to be checked and so should your siblings. But in general, a good and thorough physical examination and perhaps a complete thyroid profile(blood test) and ultrasound of your neck will be a good start.