Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Best Cancer, Part 2: The Facts

I felt that I needed to extend my "Best Cancer" series of posts because there is a bit of a secret going on. Thyroid cancer is the most rapidly increasing cancer in Canada with a 10% growth in occurence over the last fourteen years. Also, it is the #1 cancer among women ages 18-35. That's right! It's not ovarian, breast, or cervical cancer. More and more women in my age group are being diagnosed with thyroid cancer than any other cancer. When I diagnosed, I didn't know much about thyroid cancer if anything at all. I certainly did not know it was something to look out for and there weren't any tests or symptoms that I was taught to look out for. There was no annual pap smear or monthly breast exam. (Although I posted the DR. OZ self-test, I did not see that clip until after my diagnosis. Also, thyroid cancers are staged not only based on size but other factors too. Plus, I did not find my thyroid cancer through a self-exam. My physician located a nodule or a lump in my thyroid during my annual physical exam. About 80% of thyroid lumps are not cancerous.)

In the Toronto Star article, thyroid cancer is referred to as the "poor cousin" as there is little media about this illness and there is no huge campaign or marathon, such as RUN FOR THE CURE (Breast Cancer) or the UNDERWEAR AFFAIR (cancers below the waist). Since my diagnosis, I have learned more and more. There have been recent news articles, media posts, and word circulated about this disease.

One of the reasons why thyroid cancer does not get as much media attention or funds is because this label "the best cancer". How did it get such a label? Perhaps because it is the most curable cancer. A papillary thyroid carcinoma, the type that I was diagnosed with and representative of 75-85% of thyroid cancer cases, after treatment there is about a 95-99% chance that it can be treated without recurrence. Although this is true, the radioactive iodine used to treat this cancer puts me at a slightly higher risk of getting other cancers (e.g., salivary and bladder). Also there are other forms of thyroid cancer however, anaplastic, which are quite aggressive and do not such have a good prognosis.

Right after my diagnosis in November, as terrified as I was, I became a member of Thyroid Cancer Canada (TCC) which has been an excellent source of information about thyroid cancer and support. I joined their online support group which helped to answer my questions and share experiences with folks who are different phases of thyroid treatment from diagnosis to remission. You can visit their site at:

At first, my diagnosis of cancer was a "tough pill to swallow" (no joke, now I swallow lots of them to treat my illness). I was scared and it took me months to even be able to say the cancer word or tell others about my diagnosis, but it has become easier. (And I felt a load lifted off my shoulders.) As I started to prepare for my Radiaoactive Iodine and isolation today, I decided to dedicate my blog partially to the awareness of Thyroid Cancer to hopefully increase the pool of resources available. In the earlier stages of my diagnosis, I very much wanted to find other people who experienced thyroid cancer and what to expect. I hope that my experience can help others too.

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