Thyroid cancer, according to screening results, appears to be on the rise, it’s a scary and all too common diagnosis that women face. You are left with this scared feeling of panic, what do you do next. For many they go ahead with what the Doctor has recommended, yet for others this diagnosis simply doesn't sit well. Here is the thing, could it be on the rise due to over-diagnosis more than an actual increase of incidence? If this is the case what do you do now?
Finding a tiny benign tumor that really doesn't need treatment is what is known in functional medicine as overdiagnosis, a phenomenon that is also common in other types of cancer screening, such as breast cancer.
What tears me up about this is the emotional scarring, the 'wait and see' stress that it causes. What if treating it causes more harm than good? When left alone, a tiny benign tumor might never cause a problem, in fact as many as 1/3 of people die with small thyroid tutors. These tumors remained undetected throughout their lives and the cancer didn't actually do a darn thing, and it most certainly didn’t cause their death.
Removing and treating harmless tumors can lead to a whole slew of health issues, ones that will stay with you for life. For example, surgically removing your thyroid means you will need to supplement with thyroid replacing medications for the rest of your life, synthetic and harmful as these may be they are likely your only option once you have gone ahead with the surgery. This leads in many cases to less than optimal hormone function, like we don't have enough issues as with our hormones as is. I'm not saying to ignore your Dr, what I am saying is that you need to know exactly what you are facing and that it is indeed necessary, before you go letting someone cut a vital piece of the hormone puzzle out of your body. Ask the right questions, what if I don't go through with it?
When you factor in the side effects of the medication, lifelong weight issues, depression an many other issues associated with low thyroid, you need to ask is this really worth it? What are you signing yourself up for? Did yo know that in some cases, although a low percentage, accidental damage to your vocal cords can cause vocal cord paralysis, while others have developed hypoparathyroidism as a result of damage to the parathyroid glands (this affects calcium regulation in your body). What are experts saying? They are warning that a reduction in this screening that finds these tiny, harmless cancers is a must, in some countries they are even calling for a ban altogether, I think that may be a bit extreme though. Screening can save lives, but if we are so ready to jump at the tiniest lump I think that can be just as extreme.
Did you know that one in 8 women aged 35-65 has thyroid disease, and of those who have hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) a great many may also have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis? Thyroid hormone is used by EVERY cell in the body, this explains why for so many the symptoms seem to vary.
Many women suffering from thyroid disease show symptoms of depression or other mental health issues, they used to lock us up because they thought we were crazy, but we weren't crazy just our hormones were. Women's health experts like Dr. Christine Northrup explains that when depression takes over, it could simply be that underactive thyroid is to blame. In this case an anti-depressant is not the answer, fixing your thyroid is.
Remember, addressing your thyroid health is far more important and beneficial than simply relying on a screening to alert you of a potential issues, you want to prevent it, not just treat it. The chances of finding something are high, the treatment of a possibly harmless tutor is however not so great.
I am in no way saying you need to disregard your physician's advice, what I do recommend is educating yourself on your thyroid, the risks associated with any procedure, the preventive measures you can put into place and don't forget - following your gut. Get a second and if necessary a third opinion until the answers you get sit well with your gut reaction. No one knows your body better than you do, remember that.