Thursday, September 30, 2010

The fastest growing cancer? Not what you think

Let's hear it for the thyroid. Yeah, the thyroid, that sneaky devil, hiding out in your neck and masterminding your metabolism, has the potential to create all kinds of havoc.
          The incidence of thyroid cancer - in men and women -- has been on the increase since l980 and scientists don't know why. Between l997 and 2006, in fact, diagnoses of thyroid cancer increased at a rate of 6.5 percent per year, faster than rates of breast, prostate, lung or colon cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. 
          The general info about thyroid cancer, like many others, is pretty generic:  it's more common in people over 40, those with a history of radiation exposure and a family history. Here's the kicker though and it sounds oh, so familiar: "However, for most patients, we do not know the specific reason why they develop thyroid cancer."   
          I know a number of thyroid cancer survivors -- Becky, Dorienne and of course, Kairol  --  and they're far from 40.  On the contrary, they are young, healthy, and suddenly faced with the anxiety of frequent tests and check-ups. 
         Sometimes it just doesn't seem right, does it?  
         But the thyroids have something up their sleeves that rates a 15 on a scale of one to ten in my book;
         In 2006, two really funny women established a web page for people with thyroid conditions, including cancer.  Dear Thyroid is touching, passionate, supportive.  These women are tight and as honest as they come.
          For thyroid cancer awareness month, they established an honor roll.  I love it.  Anyone who had survived thyroid cancer was invited to list their name, type of thryoid cancer and year of diagnosis.  Take a look and celebrate their survivorship with me!  
          Tonight September ends and with October comes breast cancer awareness.
          But it's so much more.  On Saturday, October 2, LiveStrong events will take place all across the country and around the world.  We're all survivors in a global community. One scientific breakthrough in one cancer benefits another. Some of the drugs developed in breast cancer are now used in other cancers.  Work on p53 pathways will lead to treatments for a number of cancers.  Many of the body's mysteries have yet to be deciphered.  But each cancer is complex because each individual is.  Let's be prudent, patient, and forward looking about cancer, and do all you can in your life to prevent it, today.

Love you all,

Additional information:American Thyroid Association
Dear Thyroid  Follow Katie Schwartz  on Twitter @DearThyroid & @Katie Schwartz

October 4, 2010

After I published this post I heard from my friend Becky Mackenzie, who provided us with a novella of info. She reminds me that when people think thyroid cancer is a “good” cancer a great deal of important information falls through the cracks.  With that we also lose our connection of understanding and compassion.  Here’s her story.
       Becky was diagnosed with medullary thyroid cancer, an uncommon and difficult to treat cancer, in 2009 after a genetic test revealed that she has a genetic disorder called multiple endocrine neoplasia 2A.  The disorder involves hyperparathyroidism and pheochromocytomas, or tumors of the adreneal glands.  Carriers have an almost 100% of developing cancer. And she found out she had cancer from a genetic counselor at MD Anderson, where she sought information and treatment.
       As she wrote for Voices of Survivors last year, "The good news was I didn’t have to do chemo. The bad news was I didn’t get an option for chemo." The only option for medullary thyroid cancer is surgery. Unlike the more common thyroid cancers, follicular and papillary, medullary cancer is not technically cancer of the thyroid. It’s cancer of the c-cells (also called the parafollicular cells) which happen to be located inside the thyroid.
       “I may always have this,” she wrote to me. “It’s slow growing, but metastasizes very quickly. Because of this, it can take years and years for symptoms to show and once they do, microscopic cells are already in the lymph nodes. The key with thyroid cancer is to make sure you’re seeing an expert at a center of excellence. I fly from Florida to Texas every six months because I can’t find a doctor that compares to the doc’s at MD Anderson. It’s worth the trip because I run into people all the time that had incomplete surgeries because they went to a doctor that didn’t specialize in their disease. A proper, clean surgery is a must."
       Cancer changed her in the obvious, and not so obvious ways. “Medically. I have no thyroid. I also have stable cancer in my body that has to be watched and maintained. That’s a huge change. I need to track levels, go to doctors appointments, make sure I take synthroid appropriately, and accept that I am living with cancer. It just isn’t easy.”
      All those adjustments made it hard for Becky to establish the “new normal” and she has made big life leaps in a short time. “I’ve learned to weed out the people and the situations that drain me. I dropped a stressful job that involved a lot of negativity and greed. It just wasn't worth it. But I'm more physically active, more involved in my community and not afraid to say things that probably should be said. I'm better educated when it comes to my health. I take more pride in the things that I do. I have more passion.”
       And from my perspective? You couldn't have a better friend. She's whip smart, funny, compassionate, human, and absolutely beautiful inside and out.  We spent some time together during one of her appointments here in Houston. I'm glad cancer brought us together.
     More of Becky's incredible story ---  
     She also recommends Dear Thyroid, Kairol Rosenthal, and Thyca (the thyroid cancer survivor’s association), which offers peer support, education, conferences, plus. Thyca has support groups on Yahoo for each specific type of thyroid cancer. 


Alina said...

Hi jody,

You write amazing about cancer. In this month, i'm doing work on breast cancer awareness through my article.


Debbie said...

Great post Jody, I had my own thyroid scare after getting radiation to my neck area for my recurrence. A quick yet anxiety inducing thyroid needle biopsy proved there was nothing to worry about, and for an extra stick with the needle for research I got my parking validated! Any cancer is bad caner and I know a few young women who have or are battling thyroid cancer, it's all scary.
I like what you said at the end of this post, each cancer is as individual as the person who has been diagnosed with it. And we all have to do what we can to prevent it, every day. Love, Deb

Unknown said...

Jody, we heart you so much and appreciate you for sharing Dear Thyroid with your readers. We also appreciate your INTENSE ADVOCACY FOR WOMEN WITH CANCER. YOU ARE AMAZING; AN INSPIRATION.

Annemieke said...

Dear Jody,

I totally agree with the other ladies who commented on your blog. Once again you manage to teach us and all your blogs show how much you care and what and amazing cancr advocate your are. All of us owe you so much gratitude. Thanks again, love Annemieke

James said...

I think it is Thyroid and breast cancer