By Gary Bloom, Executive Director, ThyCa
As a 20-year thyroid cancer survivor and Executive Director of ThyCa: Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association, I recognize World Thyroid Day as an opportunity to highlight the importance of early detection and to raise awareness of the many types of thyroid cancer.
My experience with a rare type of papillary thyroid cancer led me to help found ThyCa with 17 other individuals who each had unique stories and varied diagnoses. As we celebrate ThyCa’s 20th anniversary this year, we are thankful that we are able to serve people in more than 115 countries through our services, which include free in-person support groups, online communities, materials translated into seven languages, expert video features, monthly events and our annual international conference.
This year, the American Cancer Society estimates that 62,400 people will be newly diagnosed with thyroid cancer in the United States – accounting for approximately 601,789 people as recently as 2012. There are many different types of thyroid cancer, including papillary, follicular and anaplastic thyroid cancer. Although usually treatable if found early, some thyroid cancers, such as medullary thyroid cancer (MTC), are rare and difficult to treat because they are typically not diagnosed until the cancer has progressed to a later stage. Medullary thyroid cancer is different from other thyroid cancers because it is a neuroendocrine tumor, meaning it affects cells that function similar to the nervous system.
While people with MTC typically develop a nodule, or lump, on their thyroid, some people may not take notice and most do not experience any symptoms at all. MTC is often discovered during a doctor’s visit for an unrelated issue. Because this type of cancer is rare (approximately 3-4% of thyroid cancer patients have MTC), people with MTC also have very little information and resources available to them.
The even smaller population living with advanced medullary thyroid cancer (aMTC) – which is when the cancer has spread to another location in the body – faces additional challenges. Hear from Rob, who was diagnosed with aMTC, and how that news affected him and his family:
This World Thyroid Day, I encourage you to learn more about medullary thyroid cancer, advanced medullary thyroid cancer and all types of thyroid cancer. Be aware of symptoms such as hoarseness, difficulty swallowing and/or breathing, and learn how to take the Thyroid Neck Check™ here and share with others. I especially encourage those living with thyroid cancer and their caregivers to take an active role in their treatment journey by learning more about this disease and taking advantage of the resources available to you — no matter what type or stage — and to help raise awareness of the importance of early detection. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook and help spread information about thyroid cancer.
About Gary Bloom
Gary Bloom became ThyCa’s first executive director in 2007. Under Gary’s leadership, ThyCa continues to expand outreach pathways to patients, families, professionals, and the general public.
World Thyroid Day was created by Thyroid Federation International and celebrated for the first time in 2008. Today marks the seventh celebration of this day.