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Help for Hurthle.

Dear Dr. SerVaas,

A friend of mine has thyroid cancer called Hurthle. I understand this is a rare type of cancer. The doctors treating her are not really familiar with this, and we have been unable to find information concerning this type of cancer. Can you be of any help?

Mary G. Baker

Birmingham, Alabama

You are right. Hurthle cell carcinoma (named after a German scientist) is an uncommon type of thyroid cancer. In most cases, doctors are likely to recommend surgery to remove the thyroid--a butterfly-shaped gland located in front of the lower neck area that provides hormones to regulate all vital organs.

Radioactive iodine treatment, external beam radiation therapy, or chemotherapy may also be indicated.

"Hurthle cell cancer has a 25 percent mortality in 25 years," explains Dr. Hossein Gharib, past president of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and co-chair of the AACE Medical Guidelines on the Surgical Management of Thyroid Cancer. "If the disease is localized and surgically removed, patients generally do well."

Thyroid cancer often goes undetected because patients may not experience symptoms. Periodic self-exams can help detect a thyroid nodule or enlarged gland that may require further testing (see "Neck Check" below).

In general, people with a nonfunctioning or surgically removed gland are treated with the synthetic hormone levothyroxine. Left untreated, thyroid cancer can spread to other areas of the body.

Neck Check for Thyroid Problems

1. Tilt your chin up slightly and swallow a drink of water in front of a mirror.

2. As you swallow, look at your neck. Check for any bulges or protrusions in this area when you swallow. Reminder: don't confuse the Adam's apple with the thyroid gland. Your thyroid gland is located just below the Adam's apple and immediately above the collarbone.

3. Repeat several times.

4. If you do see any bulges or protrusions in this area, see your physician. You may have an enlarged thyroid gland or a thyroid nodule and should be checked to determine whether cancer is present or if treatment of thyroid disease is needed.


--American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists
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Title Annotation:treatment of thyroid cancer
Author:SerVaas, Cory
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2005
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