Treatment of thyroid cancer - how to reduce the risk of relapse?
Thyroid cancer develops at a relatively young age - 60% of all cases are patients under 50 years of age, only 3% of cancer occurs in children. Slow development of the tumor complicates the diagnosis, and the symptoms are often mistaken for other thyroid diseases.
In Israel over the past ten years, the number of early diagnosis of thyroid cancer has increased, and the relative mortality rate has decreased (because the tumor was found at early stages). This success is related to the quality of diagnostic equipment, the experience of endocrinologists and oncosurgeon.
Types of Thyroid Cancer
There are several types of thyroid cancer:
- fast-growing tumors - medullary and anaplastic thyroid cancers. Compose 6-12% of all cases. They metastasize at early stages and are challenging to treat;
- papillary (the most common type) and follicular thyroid cancers (88-94%) grow very slowly. Unfortunately, the slow growth of the tumor leads to late diagnosis due to the absence of symptoms.
Common symptoms of thyroid cancer:
- hoarseness of voice;
- shortness of breath;
- a sensation of the pressure on the esophagus and the trachea;
- difficulty swallowing;
- the level of thyroid hormones changes (hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism)
- systemic osteoporosis (bone fractures) can develop if pituitary gland is affected.
Thyroid cancer treatment methods in Israel
The main treatment method is surgery - total or subtotal (partial) thyroidectomy. Israeli oncologists use microsurgery methods, which allow removing only the affected parts of the gland without damaging surrounding tissues and nerves. If possible, surgeons try to leave the healthy part of the organ, thus allowing a patient to avoid the subsequent hormonal imbalance. So the patient does not need to take drugs (hormone substitution therapy) after the operation for the rest of his\her life.
When metastases are detected, the organ is removed completely. Israeli surgeons perform a total thyroidectomy when the tumor grows beyond the thyroid gland.
Radioiodine therapy for thyroid cancer.
Treatment with radioactive iodine is efficient and allows to destroy metastases without damaging healthy tissues (iodine is absorbed mainly by cells that originated from the tissues of the thyroid gland). The radiation can kill the cancer cells with little effect on the rest of your body.
The duration of therapy with radioactive iodine is two days. It is recommended for papillary or follicular cancer, relapses and as a palliative treatment (slows the growth of an inoperable tumor).
Replacement hormone therapy.
In Israel, patients after thyroidectomy take hormones (levothyroxine) for 14 days minimum. After a thyroidectomy, the body can no longer make the thyroid hormone it needs, so patients must take pills to replace it.
It allows to avoid complications and maintain the body’s healthy metabolism. Besides, it can help stop any remaining cancer cells from growing (protecting from relapses of thyroid cancer).
Israeli endocrinologists regulate the dose of the drug to avoid side effects (hair loss, manifestations of hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism).
Going to Israel for thyroid cancer treatment will increase the reliability of diagnosis (10-15% less risk of error), possibly avoid lifelong hormones intake and reduce the risk of recurrence of the tumor due to the use of radioactive iodine.