The word cancer surely strikes fear in anyone who gets that diagnosis. But more and more often researchers are finding many forms of disease are survivable and livable.
More than 56,000 Americans will be diagnosed with thyroid cancer this year. And new research gives them new reason to be hopeful.
“Unlike some other caners, say breast cancer, stomach cancer, even ovarian cancer, thyroid cancer, 95 percent of the time, is a very slow growing, very controllable situation,” says Dr. Jacob Golderberger, a general surgeon on the medical staff of Lee Memorial Health System.
In fact, most people with thyroid cancer will live as long as people who don’t have the disease, provided they get proper treatment.
“The nice thing about the thyroid growth, even if it is cancer, it’s not a very aggressive cancer. And the success rate in treating that is pretty high. It’s an 80 to 90 percent cure rate with the surgery,” says Dr. Golderberger.
Doctors document nodules with ultrasound and biopsy suspicious growths to determine whether it’s cancerous. The majority of thyroid cancers are benign.
“It’s the malignant ones that we have to deal with a more radical approach, and that is you have to remove the whole thyroid. That’s a standard of care and you are left with no thyroid at all,” says Dr. Golderberger.
People can live without a thyroid, but not the thyroid hormone. It’s required to manage our metabolism. Without it, patients are dependent on hormone therapy but can still enjoy a good quality of life.
“I would say, close to one third of all people in this country are on some kind of a thyroid replacement,” says Dr. Golderberger.
Only patients with advanced cases, where the cancer had spread to other parts of the body, had a lower chance of long-term survival than the general population. Today improved diagnostics and treatment is making thyroid cancer a livable disease.