Our Endocrinologists Recommend: Managing Thyroid Cancer Symptoms and Treatment Side Effects

Most thyroid cancers are treatable, especially when they are discovered early. The following are some of the thyroid cancer symptoms that people are advised by endocrinologists to watch out for.

  • A lump, growth, or swelling in the neck or throat
  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Chronic cough
  • Engorged neck lymph nodes
  • Pain in the neck or throat
  • Hoarseness of one’s voice

Managing the effects of thyroid cancer-related fatigue

It can be very difficult coping with the thought that you have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Aside from handling the fear and anxiety associated with the diagnosis, you also have to be prepared for the effects that the cancer may cause on your body physically.

For instance, fatigue is very common among people with cancer. The illness itself can cause you to feel tired, even after you’ve rested or slept. It is important that you work closely with your doctor or endocrinologist to try to manage the fatigue, whether it’s through dealing with anemia, prescribing medications that counter the side effects of cancer treatments that cause fatigue, or by recommending a moderate exercise routine that may actually give you more energy.

A nutritionist-dietitian can also help you create a diet plan that may help control fatigue and keep your energy levels up. This way, you can also better cope with the side effects of your cancer treatment.

Recovering from thyroid surgery and radioactive iodine treatment

In general, most people who have thyroid surgery are able to return to their normal lives after a period of recovery. The recovery time varies, with some people being able to fully recover within a couple of weeks after their surgery. If you had lymph nodes removed, your recovery period could be much longer.

Immediately after the operation, however, you’ll most likely need pain medication as prescribed to you by your surgeon. You need to avoid straining your neck so that you don’t disrupt the wound’s healing. During the healing process, a physiotherapist might be able to recommend neck and shoulder exercises that you can follow to prevent stiffness in your neck.

Patients who receive radioactive iodine treatment, on the other hand, need to take some precautions when it comes to associating with people and pets. For a few days, your body will be radioactive, so make sure to follow the advice of your endocrinologist or nurse regarding the things you can or cannot do.

Possible short-term side effects associated with radioactive iodine treatment include nausea, changes in your sense of taste, inflamed salivary glands, and a flushed or swollen sensation in the neck. Long-term problems can include infertility (especially in men), chronic fatigue, and low red and white blood cell levels. Ask your endocrinologist for medications that can help counter these side effects.

To deal with the possible risk of infertility, you might want to consider sperm banking before you proceed with the treatment. It is also advised that patients wait at least half a year before trying to conceive a child in order to prevent the risk of abnormalities.

About your thyroids

The thyroid—a gland in the neck that secretes hormones responsible for the regulation of physiological functions like protein synthesis, metabolism, and growth—is often affected by a number of disorders. The most common of these is hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism.

Hyperthyroidism is a condition wherein the thyroid gland overproduces thyroid hormones, leading to symptoms like nervousness, anxiety, heart palpitations, rapid heartbeat, difficulty sleeping, and many others.

Hypothyroidism, on the other hand, is the opposite, being a condition characterized by insufficient production of thyroid hormones. Symptoms of hypothyroidism include chronic fatigue, the sensation of being cold, poor memory and concentration, and weight gain. In children hypothyroidism can lead to delays in physical development and cause intellectual disabilities.

Aside from these conditions, the thyroid can also develop benign nodules as well as thyroid cancer. Thyroid cancer is a condition in which malignant or cancerous cells grow in the tissues of the thyroid. Individuals are at greater risk of developing thyroid cancer if they have a history of exposure to radiation to the head and neck and if they have a family history of an endocrine tumor syndrome.

If you have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer and are looking for endocrinologists or oncologists who can help you with a treatment plan, please get in touch with us. Providence Saint John’s Health Center is home to prominent health professionals like Dr. Melanie Goldfarb, a world-renowned endocrine surgeon whose personal research field focuses on endocrine tumors, secondary malignancies, thyroid ultrasound, adolescent and young adult thyroid cancer, and cancer survivorship.

Our health center is located in Santa Monica, and we are open to all clients coming from surrounding areas in the Westside, South Bay, and San Fernando Valley in Southern California, as well as all over the country.


More Articles on Thyroid Cancer:
Thyroid Cancer Treatment: What the Future Holds
Thyroid Cancer Prognosis: Why Endocrine Oncologists are Promoting Early Detection and Treatment