Surgeon and Survivor: Understanding Thyroid Cancers

From Fort Sanders Regional Health & Lifestyles
Dr. Troy Kimsey, Surgical Oncologist

Dr. Troy Kimsey, Surgical Oncologist

Surgical oncologist Troy Kimsey, MD, FACS, of Premier Surgical Fort Sanders Regional, has a special understanding of patients’ thyroid cancer cases.  That’s because Kimsey is himself, a thyroid cancer survivor. “I underwent a total thyroidectomy in December, 2012,” Kimsey says.

“The overall prognosis for differentiated thyroid cancer is excellent,” Kimsey says, “so my challenge has been not to take the diagnosis too lightly, but also to be grateful it was not a diagnosis with a much worse prognosis.”

Kimsey has been undergoing periodic follow-up ultrasounds and labs with no evidence of cancer. “I take too much for granted,” Kimsey says. “It helps me make the most of today when I realize how easily it can be taken away.”

If it seems like more people are having thyroid surgery these days, it’s not your imagination.

“Thyroid cancer occurs about three times more often in women than men,” Kimsey says. More than 47,000 cases of thyroid cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women this year and more than 15,000 cases in men.

“The incidence of thyroid cancer has increased in recent years due to the increased detection of nodules with more utilized and higher quality thyroid ultrasounds,” Kimsey explains. “However, the death rate from thyroid cancer has remained relatively stable over many years.”

Most thyroid cancers develop in patients with no known risk factors. Nevertheless, some people are at a greater risk than others. Anyone exposed to ionizing radiation, especially in childhood, is at risk of developing thyroid cancer.

Anyone who develops a thyroid nodule before the age of 20 has a higher risk of having thyroid cancer. There are also genetic syndromes that lead to an increased incidence of thyroid cancers, so family history plays a significant role.

There are several types of thyroid cancer, but the vast majority are differentiated thyroid cancers, which means they carry cells that are similar to those found in a healthy thyroid. The differentiated cancers are comprised of papillary thyroid cancer and follicular thyroid cancer, and they have a very good prognosis.

Other types of thyroid cancer include medullary thyroid cancer, anaplastic thyroid cancer, and thyroid lymphoma. If detected early, the majority of thyroid cancers can be treated successfully.

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