My thyroid cancer was found quite by accident. I was having lung symptoms so my rheumatologist thought that I might be having problems with the methotrexate. She ordered a chest CT scan. It turned out that I wasn’t having lung problems I was having a different problem. I had a mass growing on my thyroid.
This was my first cancer and I was in total denial that I might possibly have cancer. My patient doctor explained that the next step was a biopsy. I put the procedure off as long as I could. I was a working woman and I needed to work. Finally, the day arrived. In the x-ray department I was given a local anesthetic. Guided by ultrasound and a long needle, my doctor captured a number of samples from my thyroid. When the results came back, it was definitely cancer. It turned out to be stage three papillary carcinoma. It is not an overly aggressive cancer and it is slow growing. Lucky me.
My thyroid labs had always been normal. There was no large mass to demand attention. The cancer had been growing slowly over a long period of time. The cancer was also in my lymph glands. I would need surgery and then I would need radiation which is a story unto itself.
My endocrinologist said I would need an excellent surgeon. The surgery is delicate in two ways. The four parathyroid glands are in close proximity behind the thyroid gland. The surgeon must be careful not to remove or damage these glands when performing thyroid surgery. The parathyroid glands control the vital process of calcium metabolism. I was kept overnight to be sure there had been no damage to the parathyroids.
Also, the recurrent laryngeal nerves can be damaged during the surgery. The result of damage causes difficulty speaking. Yes, a skilled surgeon is a must for thyroid surgery. Fortunately, I had one.
I survived. My scar is barely noticeable. I will need to take a thyroid pill for the rest of my life as my body can no long make its own.
A week after the surgery I had a repeat follow up chest scan. Two things happened. First, the technician used an iodine dye as a contrast medium. It was contraindicated in a post op thyroidectomy patient. It was missed. Bottom line was my radiation treatment was postponed for six months.
The second thing that happed was bad news. This scan found another cancer. This time it was breast cancer.