Thyroid Cancer

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Latest Edit: Iva Lloyd, ND 2014-01-01 (EDT)

Editor-In-Chief: Dr. Heidi Kussmann, ND, FABNO

The thyroid is a part of the endocrine system and is a butterfly-shaped glandular tissue found at the base of the throat, in front of the trachea below the thyroid cartilage or 'Adam's apple'. The function of the thyroid is to regulate the body's metabolism or energy use, the sensitivity of the body to other hormones, and to make proteins.

Naturopathic Assessment

The thyroid is the largest endocrine organ and is also the most sensitive. Environmental factors are the primary cause of thyroid illness. Genetic or hereditary factors are play a role.

Causal Factors

In order to stimulate the innate ability of the body to heal the causes of disease must be identified and addressed. A detailed assessment is required to determine which factors are contributing.

Lifestyle

  • A diet deficient in Iodine can increase radiation-related thyroid cancer risk by a factor of 3.[1]
  • High alcohol consumption and living a generally unhealthy lifestyle.
  • Lack of movement and a sedentary lifestyle increase a person's risk of thyroid cancer.

External

  • Smoking is associated with increased risk of thyroid cancer.

Environmental

  • Radiation Exposure
  • Exposure to ionizing radiation.[2]
  • In an assessment of children exposed to radiation after the Chernobyl nuclear accident in April 1986, it was shown that administration of potassium iodide as a dietary supplement reduced the risk of radiation-related thyroid cancer by a factor of 3.[1]
  • Electromagnetic Fields
  • UV and pulsed electromagnetic fields have causality in thyroid cancer epidemiology.[3]

Medical Interventions

  • Dental and Medical Procedures
  • During routine dental, medical and diagnostic procedures where radiation exists it is important to provide adequate barriers and to consider stable iodine supplementation to reduce thyroid cancer risk.[1]

Genetics

Among women over 35 years of age with first degree relatives diagnosed with thyroid disease, their risk of thyroid cancer increased.[4]

Diagnostic Tests

  • Blood tests including: Alkaline Phosphatase, TSH, T3, T4
  • Other testing including Chest X-ray and fine needle aspiration biopsy is necessary for the histological determination of the type of abnormal tissue in the gland.

Associated Conditions

Characterisitics

There are 6 different types of thyroid cancer:[5]

  • Papillary: represents 70% of thyroid cancer found in young adults
  • Follicular represents 20% of thyroid cancer with a peak incidence at 40 years of age
  • * Hurthle cell is a type of Follicular and is aggressive with rapid metastasis.
  • Anaplastic giant and spindle cell represents 2% of thyroid cancer found in patients older than 60 years of age. This is an aggressive cancer and rapidly spreads to surrounding tissues.
  • Medullary represents 5-10% of thyroid cancer which secrete hormones that cause physical symptoms such as diarrhea and flushing.
  • Other tumors found in the thyroid such as lymphoma, soft tissue sarcomas, and metastatic cancers from the lung, colon, and other primary sites.

Symptoms

The symptoms of thyroid cancer can include:

Naturopathic Treatment

The goal of naturopathic treatment is to support and work in tandem with the healing power of the body. A treatment strategy is the most effective when it addresses the underlying causal factors. The treatment for thyroid cancer depends on the staging (progression) of the cancer, an individual's symptoms, vitality and other conditions. The treatment strategies include: Prevention, Cancer Specific Treatments, Supportive Care and Prevent Recurrence.

It is always advisable to work with a naturopathic doctor before engaging in any treatment plan.

Prevention

Prevention involves addressing any of the causal factors before they cause cancer.

  • It has been shown that consumption of shellfish, saltwater fish, vegetables, wine and tea reduced thyroid cancer risk in adult females.[4]

Cancer Specific Treatments

Naturopathic support can be offered through and after thyroid surgery (thyroid lobectomy or total thyroidectomy) and or irradiation treatments. Standard surgical recovery and support through any complications is provided based upon the individual patient needs. I-131 (radioactive Iodine) treatment followed by external beam radiation treatment require detailed support protocol.

  • If radioactive iodine is recommended as conventional treatment, other agents (thyroxine, T3, TSH) are used according to a treatment protocol to increase iodine uptake by the intact or remaining thyroid tissue. During this time, it is important to avoid foods that inhibit the utilization of iodine such as turnips, cabbage, soy, peanuts and pine nuts.
  • Supplementation such as[6]

Supportive Care

Supportive naturopathic care is often beneficial when conventional treatments such as surgery or radiation therapy are chosen. Radiation therapy support depends upon whether you receive I-131 radiation or external beam radiation therapy. These are two different types of therapy for different purposes. I-131 is taken up by the thyroid in order to destroy malignant thyroid cells. External beam radiation is to treat residual thyroid tissue and metastatic sites. Side effects for the I-131 treatment are rare. Side effect management for external beam radiation include topical treatment of skin side effects, special dietary accommodation to ensure adequate caloric intake if there is nerve damage or difficulty swallowing.

Prevent Re-occurrence

Monitor thyroid hormone and precursor hormone levels, ensure adequate treatment via iodine or other supplementation as recommended by your licensed ND. Avoid ionizing radiation where possible. Reduce one's exposure to radiation from X-rays and other medical diagnostic imaging by choosing MRI, Ultrasound technology or other imaging technology that does not use radiation, when medically appropriate.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Cardis E, Kesminiene A, Ivanov V et al. Risk of Thyroid Cancer After Exposure to 131I 2005 Childhood Journal of the National Cancer Institute;Vol97(10).
  2. Elaine Ron, Jay H. Lubin, Roy E. Shore, et al. (1995) Thyroid Cancer after Exposure to External Radiation: A Pooled Analysis of Seven Studies. (March 1995) Radiation Research;Vol141(3):259-277.
  3. Irigaraya P,Newbyb JA.,Clapp C et al. Lifestyle-related factors and environmental agents causing cancer: An overview. (December 2007) Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy;Vol61(10):640–658.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Mack WJ., Preston-Martin S. Bernstein L and Quan D. Lifestyle and Other Risk Factors for Thyroid Cancer in Los Angeles County Females Annals of Epidemiology Volume 12, Issue 6, August 2002, Pages 395–401
  5. Casciato DA. (2004) Manual of Clinical Oncology 5th ed. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins Pg 337-338.
  6. Alshuler L, Gazella KA. (2007) The Definitive Guide to Cancer, 3rd Edition: An Integrative Approach to Prevention, Treatment, and Healing Ten Speed Press/Celestial Arts Publishing pp.422-425.