Fiemu Nwariaku, M.D. Answers Questions On: Thyroid Cancer
Why is thyroid cancer more common in women?
There have been quite a few studies done, but we still don’t have an exact answer. We think that certain hormonal differences make the thyroid cells grow and proliferate more rapidly.
For example, when animal thyroid cells in a lab are exposed to estrogen, it drives up their proliferative pathway, so it appears that the effects of estrogen or the estrogen receptor on the thyroid cell causes the cells to proliferate faster than in the absence of estrogen.
But there are a lot of other factors involved, so we’re still exploring these pathways.
What are some other factors that increase a person’s risk of thyroid cancer?
One of the strongest factors is a family history of thyroid cancer. Also, a history of radiation in childhood or adolescence increases risk.
The other risk factors are not as clear, but another one worth mentioning is that there’s some evidence that people with an iodine deficiency have a slightly higher risk of follicular thyroid cancer.
What’s your surgical approach to treating thyroid cancer?
Taking into account the size of the tumor, age of the patient, and any other circumstances the patient has, the general approach is to remove all of the diseased thyroid tissue with the least possible collateral damage.
We often perform a total thyroidectomy to remove all the thyroid tissue. In high-risk patients, we then remove all the lymph nodes in the central lymph node in the neck to reduce recurrence.
We can usually accomplish this with very few side effects. The common complications of thyroid surgery are hoarseness from nerve injury and low calcium from parathyroid injury. Our complication rates are extremely low.