Vim & Vigor - Winter 2016 - University of Virginia - 13


importance of routine.
"The last thing I do at night is get my
pill ready, and the first thing I do in the
morning is take the pill before I jump
in the shower," she told the Spanishlanguage newspaper La Opinión. "I don't
think about it anymore."
Also helping Vergara and plenty
of others take the diagnosis off their
minds: The five-year survival rate of
papillary and follicular thyroid cancers,
when caught early, is nearly 100 percent.

PHOTO BY ARAYA DIAZ/GETTY IMAGES

OTHER THYROID ISSUES

Cancer isn't the only factor that can
affect thyroid function.
The hypothyroidism that Vergara
developed as a result of physically losing her thyroid can also be triggered by
autoimmune disorders-that's when
the body's immune system mistakenly
attacks and destroys cells-such as
Hashimoto's disease.
Left untreated, "it really creates emotional problems, decreasing the quality
of life," Bianco says.
Hypothyroidism affects nearly 1 in 20
Americans ages 12 and older. Symptoms
may include fatigue, dry skin, feeling cold, heavy menstrual periods and
weight gain. It can be treated with thyroid hormone replacement therapy.
But feeling exhausted or bloated
doesn't always mean the thyroid is to
blame. Doctors can confi rm thyroid
problems with blood tests that gauge
whether levels of the thyroid-stimulating
hormone, or TSH, are out of whack.
Affecting about 1 in 100, a far less
common condition-hyperthyroidism,
sometimes called "overactive thyroid"-
is the opposite scenario. That's when,
often prompted by an autoimmune
disorder called Graves' disease or an
inflammation known as thyroiditis, the
thyroid gland produces more hormones
than the body needs.
Among the side effects: heavy sweating
or excessive warmth, vision problems,
sudden weight loss and constipation.

"You feel like you're sitting waiting
for the roller coaster to take off; your
heart's running at 90 miles an hour,"
Tuttle says.
In this case, hormone-blocking medication is a first line of defense, although
radioactive iodine ultimately may be
required to disable the thyroid (or surgery to remove it).
Thyroid cancer, hypothyroidism
and hyperthyroidism all can cause an
enlarged thyroid gland, called a goiter.
But a goiter does not always mean there
is a thyroid problem.
Where noncancerous nodules are
concerned, your doctor may choose to
monitor growth over time before taking
further action.

GREATER AWARENESS

Thyroid cancer is the most rapidly
increasing cancer in the U.S. Although
still rare, it was expected to include
about 62,450 new cases in 2015, according to the American Cancer Society.
That, experts say, doesn't signal
an epidemic but instead means greater
awareness and detection of thyroid
disease, thanks to public advocates
like Vergara and to more advanced
diagnostic methods.
Recurrence, though, is a risk-even
years after surgery-which means continuing a dialogue with one's doctor
and living healthfully are key.
By working with a personal trainer to
develop an exercise plan and maintain a
balanced diet, Vergara is doing her part.
With a bit of wiggle room, of course.
The ever-feisty Gloria of Modern Family,
after all, wouldn't stand for cutting out
all the fun.
"You have to live your life and be
happy," Vergara told the Huffington Post,
noting that she continues to enjoy dessert and the occasional cocktail. "But
it's important to go to the doctor, to
have your checkups, to work out, eat
healthy, everything. Do everything
that you can." ■

THE
CANCER
TEAM
YOU NEED
When people learn they have thyroid cancer, it's not unusual to be told, "It's the good
cancer or the one you'd want to have," says
Philip Smith, MD, a UVA Health System endocrine surgeon who specializes in treating thyroid cancer.
But as Sofia Vergara experienced, hearing
"thyroid cancer" is devastating news. "Yes,
many do well with thyroid cancer. Still, it has
a big impact on people's lives," Smith says.
"We're finding that the social and emotional
toll and all the other stressors that go along
with having cancer are still very real."
Finding the right healthcare team can help
relieve some of the worry. For thyroid cancer,
this team often includes an endocrinologist,
a specialized surgeon and a nuclear medicine
doctor. "Research shows that people have
more consistent and higher-quality care when
they come to a place like UVA that sees a high
volume of these patients," Smith adds.

WEBSITE

Fine-Tuned
Treatment
Facing thyroid cancer can be
less taxing now that experts
better understand how to balance the risk of cancer with the
impact of treatment, says Philip
Smith, MD. Learn more at uva
health.com/thyroidcancer.

WIN TE R 2016

13


http://uvahealth.com/thyroidcancer http://uvahealth.com/thyroidcancer

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