• Slider-Image-thyroid-cancer
    Thyroid Carcinoma
    Read the stories of ASCP Patient Champions Carly and Erin and learn about the role
    of laboratory testing in the diagnosis and treatment of thyroid carcinoma.

WHAT IS PAPILLARY THYROID CARCINOMA?

Papillary thyroid carcinoma is the most common form of thyroid cancer. While the genetic mutation that causes it can be inherited, commonly, this cancer is seen after exposure to radiation.

thyroid-cancer

A pathology slide of Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma showing dark blue, crowded cells creating tufts or fronds into clear spaces is typical of this tumor.

CARLY’S STORY

Three years ago, when I was 27 years old, I was feeling really tired. I had recently started graduate school to study health communication at Boston University and I thought that my tiredness was normal for a college student who was also working full-time. During a routine physical check-up my primary care doctor felt a lump in my throat. They ordered an ultrasound and they found a tumor in my thyroid, which was biopsied by laboratory staff and the immediate result from the pathologist was cancer, more specifically: Stage 1 Papillary Thyroid Cancer, Classical Variant.

Cancer is one of the most feared diseases. Everyone is affected by it in some way, but no one really imagines getting it themselves. So imagine hearing that you got the “good” cancer, a commonly used term for thyroid cancer. When I was diagnosed, I felt aloof and I numbly accepted my cancer diagnosis as part of my life. I was ready to do what I had to do to manage my cancer. Fast forward to today and I am cancer free! I do still depend heavily on the lab in my follow up care to make sure that the cancer does not come back. If I don’t have labs done, I don’t know if my body is responding properly to treatment. That is why I encourage other patients and caregivers to understand and ask questions about their labs, including what they are, what they’re for, and what the results mean as far as survivorship goes.

Since her diagnosis, Carly has become an active patient advocate for adolescents and young adults with cancer. She is also a scientific data analyst who examines clinical trial protocols and translates the information into lay-friendly language that patients can understand to help them find clinical trials that are right for them. She lives and breathes patient advocacy, both in her work and by sharing her cancer story with others. Carly’s advice to other patients is to ask questions and find a doctor that understands you. She also emphasizes the importance of having a caregiver by your side and to never be ashamed to ask questions about your diagnosis to educate yourself.

carly_story

If you’re a thyroid cancer patient, whether newly-diagnosed, in treatment, no evidence of disease (NED), or anywhere in between, educate and advocate for yourselves. Find doctors who take the time to understand your wants and needs as an individual human being. Never think that your cancer is “less than,” because it matters”

ERIN'S STORY

When she was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer at 22, Erin had her thyroid and two lymph nodes removed. Eight years later, while pregnant with her son Luke, the cancer returned.

Erin was first diagnosed with papillary thyroid carcinoma when she was a senior in college. A nodule found in a routine gynecologist’s appointment prompted her doctor to order an ultrasound and a fine needle biopsy. When cancer was diagnosed by a pathologist, Erin had surgery to remove her thyroid and two cancerous lymph nodes. Following her college graduation, she received radioactive iodine treatment and was given a clean bill of health.

When Erin was pregnant with her son eight years later, her hormone levels were monitored at a high-risk clinic. An ultrasound revealed three suspicious lymph nodes; subsequent on-site analysis by a pathologist revealed recurrent papillary thyroid carcinoma. While Erin had surgery to remove two cancerous lymph nodes, her carcinoma tested positive for a BRAF mutation, which means the cancer would be less responsive to the radioactive iodine treatment and more likely to recur in the future. Erin’s doctors continue to monitor her cancer growth every six months through a combination of blood tests and scans.

Erin’s husband, Cody, is a pathologist and has deepened her understanding of the nature of her cancer and the diagnostic role the pathologist and laboratory team play in care and treatment planning. She has a great appreciation for the many doctors and clinicians that work behind the scenes on her behalf.

Erin has worked in the commercial furniture and design industry since graduating college and now stays home with her son, Luke. She enjoys designing, crafting, watching movies and spending time with her husband and son.

erin
A New Mom with Cancer.

 

Questions To Ask Your Doctor

  • Are there any blood tests that can help diagnose thyroid cancer?
  • Would testing for thyroid - stimulating hormone (TSH), thyroid hormones (T3 and T4), or thyroglobulin be useful in working up thyroid cancer?
  • Are there other markers besides thyroid-specific markers that could help diagnose cancer?
  • What is calcitonin and Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA)? Could testing for these analytes be useful?
  • After surgery to remove thyroid, will I need to be followed with any of these thyroid markers? If so, how often?
  • What is the difference between a fine needle aspiration (FNA) and a biopsy?