Yay! I got the "best cancer!"

I found out on Monday that the mass in my thyroid is “consistent with papillary carcinoma.” Ninety percent of thyroid nodules are benign, so we didn’t expect that diagnosis. Now I’m being told that if there’s a cancer to get, thyroid is it. I have the Cadillac of cancers! Now it’s true that the five year survival rate is 98%, which is nothing to sneeze at, but it’s still cancer, people!

The good news is that it was caught early. So early that I don’t even have symptoms yet. My nodule was found while I was getting a carotid ultrasound. As a follow up, I had a thyroid biopsy. What a fun afternoon that was.

My thyroid functions are all fine right now and you can’t see or feel the bump, but it’s there. I haven’t yet come to terms with the diagnosis. I know I’m sick but I feel normal. I feel just fine. I see the specialist on August 5th. That’s probably when it will hit me.

Any advice or anecdotes (or antidotes) would be greatly appreciated.

Best of luck in dealing with that. I hope you can look back on it one day and smile.

My old boss had the same thing. In fact, it delayed his hiring me for about two months. He was in his late 50s at the time. He was on medical leave and not only did he not think about cluing me in on what was going on, nobody else there wanted to talk about it. I had been unemployed for about two years at the time, so “just waiting” was a bit difficult for me. When I came back in for the offer interview (nearly three months after the initial interview), I confronted him with the delay. He explained it, saying it was rather scary for him (I imagine!). I felt a bit bad, but he was very upbeat about it, saying the cancer was all gone and he never felt better in his life.

Last time I saw him was 20 years later, and, although a bit slower, he still got around and was still sharp as a tack.

Good Luck!

Don’t half of all people age 60+ suffer from thyroid cancer?

My wife fainted while on the job early in December, two and a half years ago. Was rushed to the emergency room and a bump on her thyroid was detected. After numerous tests it was determined that the big lump they’d found was not cancerous, but two smaller clusters of cells were. She went in to surgery in mid-February to have her thyroid removed, and was back to work a week later. (Eight days later, to be exact.)

One piece of advice that I’d give you is to find a good endocrinologist. My wife was originally started on synthroid, a standard synthetic thyroid hormone replacement after her thyroid was removed. She felt sleepy, grouchy, and exhausted, nearly all the time. A new endocrinologist switched her to Armour Thyroid, which is made from real thyroid hormones of pigs (or maybe cows, I can’t remember) and she’s felt much better since then. So don’t settle for a thyroid hormone regimen that doesn’t make you feel good.

Congratulations on your cancer, Yinzer! :wink:

(Good luck, too)

I had my thyroid removed last May for papillary carcinoma. I know it’s frustrating and insulting to be told you have the “good” cancer, but I think most people say that to reassure you that you’ll be okay. In my case, it was scary as hell to hear “the C word” and to have surgery, but it wasn’t as bad as I feared. I have a scar and have to take thyroid pills. Other than that, it’s all over. And that’s great.

My doctor found the nodule during my routine physical. Like you, I had no symptoms and normally functioning thyroid. They performed a biopsy and found some suspicious, but not obviously cancerous, cells.

I had surgery to remove the half of my thyroid with the tumor. While I was under, they froze the tumor and sliced it up to see if it was cancerous. It didn’t look like it was, so they closed me up leaving 1/2 my thyroid in place. However, even though it didn’t look cancerous when examined, tumor cells were sent off to a lab… Which did, in fact, find cancer. It doesn’t happen all that often for them to miss it during surgery, but it does happen. So off I went to have the other 1/2 of my thyroid removed.

Afterwards, they found no evidence of remaining thyroid cancer cells (they ultra sound the lymph nodes and do blood tests for thyroid antibodies). That meant I didn’t need the radioactive iodine treatment.

I need to go back to the endocrinologist every six months to have my lymph nodes and blood tested. Odds are very, very much in my favor that they won’t find anything from the thyroid, but it still needs checking.

As mentioned, I have a scar. Mine is larger than most and a bit more visible because I had two surgeries in the same place. Even so, it’s not all that apparent unless someone is staring at my collar bone area. I have to take synthetic thyroid hormone every day. It’s not an expensive scrip and not really much trouble at all.

Having surgery was the scariest part for me, but it went well. I was back at work within 5 days both times. I was told that an incision on the neck doesn’t case as much pain as one on the torso, and that a thyroidectomy doesn’t cause nearly the internal trauma that something like gall bladder surgery does. I have no idea if that’s true. I do know, for me, the biggest discomfort was from the anesthesia tube and the surgery site didn’t hurt much at all.

I was hoarse for a while after both surgeries. I sing, and was afraid of losing my voice or some of my range. That is a risk, but I came through okay.

It’s not a “Cadillac”. I’d much rather not have had it! But it is something that is very treatable. It also doesn’t fuck up your life or require major changes your lifestyle like some illnesses.

Best of luck to you. If you have surgery, get an appointment set up with an endocrinologist for as soon as you can afterwards. I didn’t try until after surgery, and I had to wait a while to get in. My primary care doc got me started in the thyroid pills, but they aren’t the experts at getting your hormone levels perfect. The endocrinologist did a much better job of that.

Had mine removed in 2009. The doctor said we could do ‘watchful waiting’ because I’d had an enlarged thyroid for 40 years, and the cancer was barely stage I. The thinking was they’d do needle biopsy every 6 months to monitor it and it might never go further.

Mmmm…no. I was concerned that now that we were looking at it, the cancer might metastasize, so I had them yank it out. I think I was in the hospital 4 days.

This was followed by radioactive iodine trace scan which came out negative. This is the most problematical part of the treatment. I think I was off thyroid meds for 6 weeks. Also, once you get the radioactive iodine pill, there’s some things you have to do to keep from exposing your family (especially children) to the radioactivity. You don’t have to stay in the hospital for the radiation treatment anymore, according to my doctor. However, for the weeks you’re off thyroid replacement meds, you also have to be on an iodine free diet. Talk about pain in the tuchus. I had to cook all my own foods.

Make sure you get a surgeon who has training in thyroid removal. If the parathyroid is accidentally removed, that causes problems. Don’t get a general surgeon unless they’ve had experience with thyroid removal (mine had specialized training in removing thyroid and I think other endocrine glands).

I guessed it was thyroid. I’ve heard before that it’s the best kind of cancer, if you’re going to have cancer.

Wishing you a speedy recovery!

My wife went through the same thing. Like with you, they detected it early. She had her thyroid removed and has to take a pill the rest of her life, but that’s it. She’s been cancer free for 5 years now. I know it’s scary sounding, but it really was not as big a deal as we feared.

Speaking of Cadillacs, what kind of Cadillac medical plan do you need to have, so that doctor’s would even be testing for stuff like that, absent any obvious symptoms?

The HMO plan I have gives me one “wellness check” a year where the nurse takes my blood pressure and blood oxygen level and the doctor asks me “how do you feel? Anything new or different since last year?” and he orders some basic blood labs that I think are not very comprehensive.

Other than that, I can go in for medical care when I have some bothersome symptom to complain about. And immunizations are covered – annual flu shots, also shingles shot, tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis booster every 10 years, and pneumonia shot.

My sister had thyroid cancer, as well as a nephew and an aunt. With my sister, it took her almost a year to convince her endocrinologist that she wanted to have her thyroid removed, because the nodules were so big it was interfering with her swallowing. He said, well, I can guarantee it’s not cancer. Why do you want to have surgery? Anyway, they did the surgery and removed part of her thyroid and lo and behold, cancer! But they said they were sure they got it all, had clear margins, etc. But since my sister had just finished breast cancer treatment she insisted they remove the rest of it. 2nd surgery, still no radiation. Then a year later at a follow up exam, she’s still getting cancer markers. Finally they did the radiation, too. Now, 5 years later, she seems cancer-free.

I had my thyroid out because of the nodules being so big. Surgery was no big deal, although my thyroid nodules were adhered to my vocal cords and there was some trauma to them that need rest and time to heal.

Good luck!



There are about 60,000 new cases of thyroid cancer (all types) diagnosed every year. So (sorry, I’m too lazy to do the math), that’s a minute fraction of the 60+ folks (even if you add in tiny occult papillary carcinomas which are not diagnosed during the person’s life).

If you’ve got to have an internal organ cancer, papillary thyroid cancer is one of the “best” to have, true. But the “best” cancer of all is probably basal cell carcinoma of the skin. Just do a good excisional biopsy and that baby is done for.

Best wishes to NotherYinzer.

Rates of thyroid cancer diagnosis and treatment have grown dramatically while mortality rates are unchanged. That is a complaint I’ve heard with cancer diagnosis, medicine is getting better at finding small, slow growing tumors that may never cause symptoms but not advancing enough to find the dangerous, fast growing tumors that kill.

According to this, about a third of people are found to have thyroid cancer on autopsy.

Oh yeah well I think Basal Cell Carcinoma is better so there!

I’ve heard it said that testicular cancer is the best. Just lob off one ball and you are well.
My bout with cancer was in the colon, but here I am five years later (64% survival).

Good luck, NotherYinzer. I hope you, like I was, are fascinated by all the medical procedures you will go through.

I hope your treatment goes well. Best cancer or not, it is still frightening. Your Surgery may not be difficult compared to abdominal surgery, but it is still surgery and I hope you treat yourself gently in the weeks to come. Allow yourself to feel what you feel.

The worst sentence every uttered to me in my life was when my son was 7 days old, phrased in a supposedly hopeful way. “Congenital nephromas found in infants have an excellent prognosis.” It turned out not to be cancer, and my son today is a tall healthy and bright 11 year old today, but getting that news is never good, no matter how well someone turns their phrases. There is no Cadillac of cancer. Be well.

Feel free to roll your eyes at anyone who talks about your “journey”. :smiley: That drove me nuts. The best of luck!

Thanks for all of the encouragement, everybody. I’m hoping that this will not be a “journey,” a “fight” or a “valiant struggle.”

Senegoid, my PPO is pretty great but they do prefer it if the tests are looking for something. In this case, I had an ultrasound to look for carotid artery disease and they found the thyroid mass as a bonus. My insurance co had already denied me an MRI earlier for another health problem but they let me have one once I showed some proof of need.

I’m only 46 :o