Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer is a form of cancer that strikes the thyroid gland - an organ located at the bottom of the throat and produces thyroid hormones, which aid in regulating the blood pressure, the heart rate, weight as well as the body temperature.

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Thyroid cancer may be of different types, including the following:

  • Anaplastic carcinoma, also known as the cancer of the giant and spindle cell, is considered to be the most precarious form of thyroid cancer. While it occurs seldom, this type of thyroid cancer has the aptitude to spread rapidly.
  • Follicular carcinoma is a type of thyroid cancer that has the aptitude to recur as well as spread to other parts of the body.
  • Papillary carcinoma is the most widespread type of thyroid cancer and, generally, this type of thyroid cancer strikes women who are still in the reproductive stage. The development and spread of papillary carcinoma is gradual and it is considered to be the minimum hazardous of all types of thyroid cancer.
  • Medullary carcinoma is a type of cancer that occurs in the non-thyroid cells present in the thyroid gland. This category of thyroid cancer usually occurs in families.
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Usually, the growth of thyroid cancer is very gradual and it normally does not exhibit any symptom during the initial stages. Later thyroid cancer produces numerous symptoms, such as croakiness or difficulty in speaking with one's normal voice; swollen lymph nodes in the neck; and a number of problems related to breathing. In addition, the patient may also develop a small, trouble-free lump in his/ her neck. However, less than five per cent of such lumps are generally cancerous (malignant). The chances of such lumps turning out to be malignant nodes increase in patients who are below 20 years of age. In general, the functioning of the thyroid is normal, but when the tumor grows large enough, it may possibly become overcharged (a condition known as hyperthyroidism) or underactive (a condition known as hypothyroidism, when the thyroid gland produces less hormone).

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Supplements and herbs

Various studies conducted to ascertain the appropriate treatment for thyroid cancer have examined the efficacy of numerous dietary supplements for curing this disease. While findings of very few studies actually encourage or assist the treatment of thyroid cancer with them, many studies have demonstrated that these supplements may possibly help in putting off the development of thyroid cancer to some degree.

Nevertheless, scientists as well as physicians are of the view that more studies are essential to corroborate these claims. A number of dietary supplements that have been recommended for treating thyroid cancer include antioxidants; green tea extracts; parsley; whey protein; licorice root extract; calcium D-glucurate and several others. In fact, it is believed that using these supplements helps to curb cancer cell growth and, at the same time, increases the receptiveness of the body to various conventional treatment approaches. In addition, these supplements are also thought to enhance the overall well-being of people suffering from thyroid cancer.

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Additional things you may do

Surgery is one of the main methods of treating thyroid cancer. In almost all incidences of thyroid cancer, physicians carry out a thyroidectomy, a surgery performed to eliminate the entire thyroid or a portion of it. In case the lymph nodes of the patient have also been affected, they are also removed by means of surgery. However, in patients whose thyroid cancer is just restricted to the thyroid gland itself, surgery is possibly the sole treatment required. Additional treatments are necessary for patients whose thyroid cancer has already spread to other parts of the body.

Many physicians also prescribe radiation therapy to heal thyroid cancer. Radiation therapy makes use of specific types of intense energy beams of emission to shrivel tumours or kill the carcinogenic cells. In fact, radiation therapy acts by destroying the DNA of the cancer cells, thereby incapacitating them from being able to reproduce. While it is very likely that radiation therapy will also damage some of the healthy cells adjacent to the cancerous cells, the fact remains that the cancer cells are extremely vulnerable to radiation and are more easily killed when this mode of treatment is used. On the contrary, the healthy cells have some kind of resistance to radiation and even if they are damaged, they usually have the capacity to recover completely.

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Chemotherapy is another alternative method for treating thyroid cancer and physicians may recommend this therapy when thyroid cancer becomes aggressive. Drugs used in chemotherapy work by getting rid of the cancer cells that multiply very fast. Nevertheless, some other cells in the body also multiply/ reproduce as rapidly, for instance, the cells of hair follicle. It is unfortunate that several chemotherapy drugs may possibly be unable to distinguish between these two types of cells and, as a result, assault the healthy cells too. Consequently, the patient experiences side effects like loss of hair.

Some physicians prefer Controlled Amino Acid Therapy (also known as CAAT) to treat thyroid cancer, as it has the aptitude to put off as well as cure this condition. CAAT requires administering amino acid supplement, modifications in the patient's diet and giving dietary supplements. This particular mode of treatment tries to merge the defensive actions of a variety of dietary as well as herbal substances. It is essential for patients with thyroid cancer who are undergoing this mode of treatment to take different types of fruits, dietary as well as herbal supplements as per the prescription of their physician.

Majority of patients with thyroid cancer need to undergo surgery. Some months following a surgery, thyroid cancer patients undergo a special therapy called RAI (radioactive iodine treatment). This therapy is especially advisable for thyroid cancer patients, as radioactive iodine holds back the development of thyroid cells. RAI or radioactive iodine therapy is given in the form of pills or a liquid. It is worth mentioning here that any therapy that entails radioactivity calls for plenty of precautions prior to, during as well as after the treatment. This is particularly important for people undergoing RAI therapy. In fact, the processes entailing the precautions necessary during RAI therapy may often prove to be very long drawn, tedious as well as difficult.

Patients who are intending to undergo RAI therapy to cure thyroid cancer are required to strictly stick to a diet that is low in iodine for nearly two weeks prior to the commencement of the actual treatment. In majority of instances, the physician also asks the patient to discontinue all conventional thyroid medicines prior to the process. In addition, the physician may also tell the patients to stop taking any natural medications for thyroid that they may be already using. However, patients for whom taking hormonal supplements is extremely essential for their condition, physicians reduce the level of iodine in their body artificially by means of administering recombinant TSH injections. A diet that is low in iodine does not essentially mean that you have to completely stop taking iodine. As per the recommendations of the American Thyroid Association, even if an individual is following a low iodine diet, it is acceptable if he/ she takes iodine in the lowest measure of 50 mcg throughout the day.

The diet restrictions for people undergoing RAI treatment for thyroid cancer are comparable to those that are prescribed for people undergoing alternative thyroid therapies. These diets are especially prepared for individuals whose thyroid gland is malfunctioning. It makes certain that the particular items listed in their diet chart only supply the prescribed iodine levels.

The diets recommended for thyroid cancer patients aim at enhancing consumption of vegetables, both raw as well as freshly cooked; fruits; in addition to unsalted nuts. In addition, such diets either ensure the restricted consumption or putting off the intake of iodized salt as well as sea salt; meats; any form of sea food; rice, cereals and grains; and milk as well as milk products. However, such patients are allowed to consume chocolates, including cocoa as well as a number of additional chocolates. They may also take soybeans as well as soy products, with the exception of lecithin and soy oil.

Notwithstanding the precautions and restrictions regarding medications and diets, the RAI therapy for thyroid cancer is an easy method in which the patients are allowed to go home after they receive the prescribed dose. In addition, most of the radioactive iodine administered during treatment is taken up by the thyroid and if any amount of radioactive iodine is not absorbed by the thyroid, it is discharged during the next few days by means of sweat, saliva, urine and stools.

All said and done, it is extremely essential to exercise specific precautions with a view to make sure that others around them are safe. You should especially stay away from children as well as pregnant women for no less than eight days after RAI therapy. In addition, never allow anyone to come very close - more than three feet, in excess of an hour every day. It is especially essential to take this precaution during the initial five days of undergoing RAI therapy.

People having thyroid cancer and undergoing radioactive iodine therapy should take additional care regarding their personal cleanliness and disinfection. You should flush the toilet a number of times following its use every time. Men need to adopt additional precaution to ensure that they do not spill over during urinating. New mothers should strictly stop breast feeding while undergoing this therapy. In addition, it is important that women consult their physician before becoming pregnant.

While the modus operandi entailing radioactive iodine therapy (RAI) for thyroid cancer is quite easy and straightforward, in some cases the patient may need to be hospitalized. This may become essential provided there is an infant back at the patient's home who should be protected from contamination. Usually, patients undergoing this iodine treatment are kept in an isolated room till such a time when the hospital authorities are convinced that the patient is no more a safety concern for others. The isolation of the patient is such that he/ she will need to do all their communications with the hospital staff and visitors only through the intercom.

Physical therapies like massage therapies, reflexology and chiropractic care make use of specific physical techniques to lessen pain as well as other symptoms related to thyroid cancer. Such physical therapies may possibly provide some relief from the symptoms to people having thyroid cancer.

People advocating the use of energy medicine assert that our body is made up of various energy fields that change when one suffers from any disease. They believe that rectification of these altered energy fields is essential to alleviate several ailments or physical problems. Reiki, Tai Chi and therapeutic touch are a few of the alternative therapeutic methods that may possibly help in providing relief from the symptoms of thyroid cancer.

In addition, thyroid cancer patients may also opt for neutral remedies turning to homeopathy, Ayurveda and naturopathy, which are offered for curing a variety of health problems. In specific cases, people may also turn to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). People having thyroid cancer may also avail alternative therapies like acupressure, acupuncture and several such treatments to cure their condition.

It is important to note that the above mentioned modalities of treating thyroid cancer may possibly be effective in curing the symptoms related to this medical condition. In addition, they also facilitate in boosting the self-confidence of people having thyroid cancer and, therefore, assist such patients in leading a more relaxed life. However, more as well as wider scientific studies are necessary to validate the positive impacts of undergoing such therapies prior to using them as alternative therapies to treat thyroid cancer.

People practicing mind-body medicine are of the belief that the mind controls the body and, hence, when the mind is healthy it has the aptitude to put an end to issues related to an unwell or sickly body. This treatment entails performing a variety of techniques that induce relaxation. These relaxation methods may include meditation, yoga, art, music, hypnosis, biofeedback and so on. These therapies not only assist in unwinding the mind, but also inculcate a positive feeling or thought regarding one's health and life, especially in people who are enduring thyroid cancer.

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