Thyroid Cancer Awareness

Cancer Awareness Series – Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid Cancer awareness month – Get in the Know!

What is thyroid cancer?
Thyroid cancer originates in the thyroid gland, a butterfly-shaped gland located at the front of the neck, below the larynx (voice box). The thyroid gland uses iodine to produce hormones that play an integral role in processes that include metabolism, energy production and mood. There are two main types of thyroid cells – follicular cells (which produce thyroid hormone) and C cells (which produce the hormone calcitonin, which helps to regulate calcium levels in the body).
Tumours arising within the thyroid gland may be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Malignant thyroid tumours may spread to nearby tissues (including lymph nodes) or to more distant areas in the body (such as the lungs or bones). Fortunately, 90% of thyroid nodules are benign, and even among thyroid cancers, there is a 98% overall 5-year survival rate.
There are four main types of thyroid cancer: Papillary and follicular thyroid cancers both arise in follicular cells, are generally slow-growing, and often curable, comprising around 90% of all thyroid cancers. Medullary thyroid cancer arises from C cells, is much more rare, though also often manageable if detected early. The fourth type, anaplastic thyroid cancer, originates from one of the other tumour types, and is much more difficult to manage. Fortunately, only 2% of thyroid cancers are anaplastic type.

Risk factors:
Roughly 2/3rds of all thyroid cancers originate in women, and in individuals aged 20-55 (with anaplastic thyroid cancer often diagnosed after age 60). Individuals of white and Asian descent are also at increased risk, as are those with a specific inherited mutation to a gene called RET. In addition, a family history of goiters (enlargement of the thyroid gland due to iodine deficiency or hyperthyroidism), prior exposure to radiation, or personal history of colon polyps can also increase risk of thyroid cancer.

How is it diagnosed?
Many people present to their doctors with a history (recent or gradually worsening) of cough, neck stiffness, difficulty swallowing, or a palpable lump in the front of the throat, while many others experience no symptoms at all. Often, thyroid cancer is detected during a yearly check-up, when the doctor feels the patient’s neck (asking them to swallow while gently holding two fingers against the throat), or by checking thyroid hormone levels in the blood (specifically, the hormones T3 and T4, as well as TSH, a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland that stimulates the thyroid to produce more hormone). Once a tumour is suspected, the patient typically undergoes an ultrasound, followed by a biopsy to officially make the diagnosis.

Standard of Care Treatment:
Conventionally, thyroid cancer is usually managed through surgery (either partially or completely removing the thyroid gland, and any involved/suspicious lymph nodes), often followed by a radioactive iodine treatment designed to kill any residual cancer cells. Following complete resection (also called a total thyroidectomy), the patient will require thyroid hormone medication for the rest of their life (often given at a high dose for a number of years after surgery to minimize the stimulation of any surviving cancer cells by TSH). Less often, in more severe cases, treatment options may include chemotherapy or targeted therapies (that inhibit a specific cancer growth-inducing protein).

The IHC Approach to Thyroid Cancer:
Patients undergoing conventional treatments for thyroid cancer often require a wide range of supportive measures. Some patients require post-surgical wound healing support, while others wish to minimize the potential adverse effects of radiation therapy. Still others experience distressing fluctuations in energy, sleep, mood and bodyweight following initiation of thyroid replacement therapy. At Integrated Health Clinic, we offer comprehensive, personalized support to help minimize adverse treatment effects, optimize overall quality of life, and incorporate natural anti-cancer measures to encourage disease prevention. Through specific dietary programs, supplementation, acupuncture, IV therapy, heat treatments (such as locoregional hyperthermia and body warming therapy) and other therapies, the team at IHC’s Cancer Care Centre can help each patient diagnosed with thyroid cancer work towards the best outcome possible.

If you or a friend or loved one want more information on the prevention or treatment of Thyroid Cancer please contact the clinic at 604-888-8325, or through our website at

Related Reference Links:

IHC Cancer Care Centre

Thyroid Cancer Canada

Canadian Cancer Society


Erik Boudreau, ND

Naturopathic Doctor at the Integrated Health Clinic

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