Is there any more terrifying word in the English language? Cancers of all sorts are insidious, difficult diseases that can be hard to spot, hard to diagnose, and hard to treat.
And thyroid cancer is no exception. While still a small percentage of overall cancer diagnoses, thyroid cancer rates have doubled over the last 30 years and are still rising.
This is not meant to scare you but to bring about awareness so you can take steps toward prevention (I’ve listed steps below!)
Often, the first sign of thyroid cancer presents as a cyst or nodule on the thyroid. Conventional wisdom is that you can live without your thyroid and that nodules should be removed ASAP. But I believe that isn’t the only option.
Please remember that this is not medical advice, but another viewpoint to be considered.
What is thyroid cancer and what causes it?
The National Institutes of Health estimates that there were more than 62,450 new cases of thyroid cancer diagnosed in the U.S. in 2015. Of these, 75% of those affected are women of childbearing age. In fact, the American Cancer Society says that thyroid cancer is the most rapidly increasing cancer in the US.
Thankfully, the survival rate for thyroid cancer is fairly high, especially compared to other types of cancer.
As with most cancers, the causes aren’t totally clear. There is a strong correlation between exposure to X-rays, radiation, and thyroid cancer, especially exposure in children, so it’s highly recommended that you avoid any unnecessary X-rays and radiation treatments for your kids, especially of the head and neck. There’s even some evidence that living within 10 miles of a nuclear power station could expose you to unsafe levels of radioactivity.
Certain types of medullary thyroid cancers have shown a genetic component, so if anyone in your family has had medullary thyroid family, you can request a genetic screening to find out if you have the gene. Of course, carrying the gene does not guarantee that you will get cancer, although many doctors will recommend removing your thyroid as a precautionary measure. (We’ll talk about that more below.)
The best prevention is taking care of your thyroid. If you already have a thyroid condition, it’s important to take steps to support your thyroid health and the overall health of your body. This provides an environment that is less hospitable for cancer to develop and grow.
If you’re interested in learning more about the healthy changes you should make for your particular thyroid issues, take my free Thyroid Healing Type Quiz. You’ll not only receive a personalized report with my best suggestions for healing, but also a printable worksheet to help you talk to your doctor about your symptoms and treatment.
Treatment and cure for thyroid cancer
Here’s where things can get a little sticky.
The typical treatment for thyroid cancer involves removing all or part of the thyroid. If only one “lobe” (think one wing of the butterfly) is affected, the surgeon may leave part of the thyroid intact, but if he suspects the cancer has spread or is likely to spread, he may remove the entire thyroid.
After surgery, patients are sometimes treated with radioactive iodine, the goal being to destroy any remaining thyroid tissue.
Patients who have had their thyroid removed almost always must take thyroid replacement hormones to balance their bodies’ natural functions — for the rest of their lives.
To my mind, this is a very Western approach to treatment. Of course we want to remove cancers if there is a chance they could spread to other parts of the body, but this slash and burn approach to healing bothers me.
The doctor who diagnosed me with Hashimoto’s was a fan of keeping the thyroid intact if at all possible, because when it’s removed, you often have to be on thyroid replacement hormones for life, which can come with a host of side effects.
Thyroid nodules or thyroid cancer?
It’s important to note that thyroid nodules and thyroid cancer are not necessarily the same thing.
Thyroid nodules can form in anyone at any time, and are basically a goiter. Sometimes these nodules need to be removed, because they can interfere with the vocal cords and nerves in your neck. But other times, they can be left alone.
The problem is that it is very difficult to tell the difference between a benign thyroid nodule and a cancerous one without a biopsy.
Thyroid cancer has very few symptoms. Often, patients will present as having Hashimoto’s or another form of hyper- or hypothyroidism, but your blood tests can be in the “normal” range even when cancer is present. Symptoms can include hoarseness, trouble swallowing, and even trouble breathing if the nodule gets big enough. A patient might also experience painful swallowing or neck discomfort that spreads up the jaw and into the ears, as well as enlarged lymph nodes in the neck, around the jaw, ears, and under the collarbone.
BUT, all of these symptoms can happen with benign nodules as well.
The important takeaway here is that if you have any of these symptoms and you or a doctor has found a nodule on your thyroid, it’s important to get it biopsied early and often to ensure there is no cancer.
But benign nodules do not necessarily have to be removed immediately, or at all. Unless they are causing you discomfort or other symptoms, as long as your biopsies continue to come back negative, you can manage your thyroid health through diet and lifestyle changes the same way you would without nodules.
If you are dealing with cysts or nodules on your thyroid, be proactive. Talk with your doctor about your options and choices. Make your wishes clear that — if at all possible — you would like to try to treat the condition naturally, and retain all or part of your thyroid.
And if you’ve already had your thyroid removed due to cancer or nodules, don’t despair. I’ve seen hundreds of my own clients improve their symptoms dramatically when they make the appropriate lifestyle and diet changes — to the point that they can cut way back on their thyroid medication, and be free of the many symptoms and side effects they suffer from.
Cancer is no joke, and nothing to be taken lightly. But I believe natural healing techniques, diet, and lifestyle changes can compliment conventional medicine — even cancer treatments — and make an enormous difference in your overall health and wellbeing.
If you are looking for more information on thyroid cancer, I highly recommend the Truth About Cancer Series. I have been blown away by all the time-saving and life-saving information provided in this program about cancer prevention and treatment. I own both seasons of this series myself and refer back to this resource any time a friend or loved one is facing cancer.
And, I just took their Cancer IQ quiz – even with all my health knowledge and research, I still only scored a 60%! I learned a lot just in the 42 seconds it took me to take the quiz and see my results!
Whether you have a thyroid or you don’t, I also provide a ton of resources on healing and supporting your body so you can feel your best, including:
- Our totally free Thyroid Healing Type Assessment, Report and Coaching Sessions
- Right here on my blog, where I talk about what’s worked best for me and my clients, as well as the latest research and resources I come across. You can subscribe to get new blog posts delivered right to your email by signing up on the righthand side of the page.
- My book, Healing Hashimoto’s Naturally — part memoir, part instruction manual for how I personally healed my Hashimoto’s disease.
- My exclusive free 6 Thyroid Myths That Can Keep You From Healing workshop — with info on the comprehensive Thyroid Fix in 6 program, which walks you through, step-by-step, the exact actions you need to take to heal your thyroid and get your life back! We’ve seen hundreds of participants in the Thyroid Fix in 6 avoid, decrease, or even eliminate the need need for thyroid medications.
- The incredible Your Best Thyroid Life Video Bundle, in which I personally invited 27 of the world’s top health experts to share their best tips for living with and healing thyroid disease.
If you do one thing today, check out the 2 free videos in the Truth About Cancer Series. I so wish they had been created before I lost some of the people I’ve loved most in the world to cancer. It doesn’t need to be this way…and now we have options.
Jen Wittman is a Certified Holistic Health Expert, Chef, Author & Vitality Coach, who teaches women how to reverse thyroid and autoimmune conditions naturally. She’s helped hundreds of women decrease (or even eliminate) their thyroid medications and has helped others stay off thyroid medication entirely.
Through her free Thyroid Healing Type Assessment, Jen teaches easy and simple steps to thyroid healing that can fit into your busy day. She also provides print outs to bring to your next doctor’s appointment so you can get the support and respect you deserve.