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Women's Health

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Brooke Burke-Charvet Has Thyroid Cancer

'Dancing With the Stars' Co-Host Faces Surgery; Cancer Expert Weighs In on Disease

What are the risk factors for thyroid cancer?

“There are few known risk factors, and the major one is radiation,” he says. “For example, children downwind of Chernobyl grew up with a higher risk of thyroid cancer. Children treated for lymphoma whose chest and neck areas were exposed to radiation therapy also are at higher risk. Some types of thyroid cancer run in the family, but the common ones are sporadic, occurring without any [family] history.”

How is thyroid cancer treated?

“Typically, the first treatment is surgery to remove the whole thyroid or a part of it,” Gross says. “There’s a lot that goes into the decision about how much to remove. It’s hotly debated and comes down to details such as how big the nodules are or whether there are nodules on the other side of the thyroid. It’s more common to remove the entire thing, though.

"The thyroid sits right where a bow tie would be tied, and a 3” to 4” incision is made in the neck to reach it. In general, it’s a safe operation that is performed frequently, though the surgeon must be careful not to damage the nearby vocal cord nerves or the parathyroid glands, which regulate calcium. A few months after surgery, patients may undergo iodine radiation therapy, depending on certain details of their cancer, including whether or not it has spread to the lymph nodes.”

What can a patient expect after surgery?

“The incision will leave a scar in the neck,” Gross says. “However, new types of robotic therapy, which go in through an incision in the arm pit, are available. I have trained in and performed this type of surgery on the thyroid, though not specifically for thyroid cancer.

"Patients who have their thyroid removed will have to take thyroid hormone replacement pills on a daily basis, because they have no thyroid to produce those hormones naturally any longer. Some patients say they don’t feel the same on such pills, but a different formula or brand might help with that. Most patients don’t notice the difference.”

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