A new study has revealed that younger thyroid cancer survivors are at increased risk for certain types of health problems later in life. Thyroid cancer survivors diagnosed before age 40 were five times more likely to develop swelling around the heart, seven times more likely to develop osteoporosis, and more than twice as likely to heart valve disease, compared to people in their age group who did not have thyroid cancer. People diagnosed with thyroid cancer at a later age, after 40, had an increased risk for certain health problems but it was not as strong as was seen in people diagnosed at a younger age. While individuals diagnosed with thyroid cancer often have an excellent prognosis and survival rate, especially individuals diagnosed at younger ages. However, long-term health risks may occur later on. Brenna Blackburn, a graduate research assistant in the study at the University of Utah, notes how it is important to understand the long-term risks involved so that we can change how oncologists treat these patients as soon as they are diagnosed.
Dr. Daniel Kuriloff, Director of the Center for Thyroid and Parathyroid Surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital, explains, “In the recent past, most patients with thyroid cancer were treated with surgical removal of the entire gland, followed by radiation given in the form of radioactive iodine.” New standards of less aggressive treatment for young, “low risk,” patients under the age of 45 are being developed. Dr. John Allendorf, vice chair of surgery at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, New York, says, “There is likely a population of patients that can be identified whose risk of recurrence is so low that the standard practice of thyroid hormone replacement does more harm than good.”
The TCCC (Thyroid Cancer Care Collaborative) aims to educate patients and physicians by providing them with the most up to date research findings. Through the TCCC, users can track patients’ conditions, with immediate access to complete thyroid medical histories to review treatments and update information at any time. This is essential in monitoring patients at different risk levels, in order to identify the most appropriate treatment option.