As Thyroid Cancer Rates Rise, James Experts Respond with Patient-Tailored Treatment


Through world-class care and innovative research, experts at The James are working to save lives while preventing the over-treatment of thyroid cancer — one of the fastest-growing cancers in the U.S.

More than 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with thyroid cancer each year. The majority of those cases affect women, but the rate is rising among men as well.

To meet this growing challenge, dedicated experts at The James use the top techniques and technology to treat today’s patients, while conducting advanced clinical trials to break new ground in thyroid cancer care.

Read on as one of those experts, Drew Shirley, MD, MS, shares some information about the symptoms and survivability of thyroid cancer, as well as cutting edge treatment options and support services available at The James.


“With thyroid cancer, most patients don’t have symptoms when they are first diagnosed. These cancers are often diagnosed after patients receive other medical imaging, such as ultrasound, CT scan, or PET scan. Symptoms that could be related to a thyroid mass include difficulty swallowing, change in voice, and feeling a new mass in the neck. Any concern should be brought to the attention of primary care practitioners for further work-up.”


“Treatment for almost all thyroid cancers begins with surgery to remove part or all of the thyroid gland, as well as potentially lymph nodes in the neck. After surgery, patients will be started on synthetic thyroid hormone pills to take the place of the removed gland. Some patients may require treatment with radioactive iodine ablation, which involves taking a pill containing radioactive iodine, killing cancer cells that may remain after surgery.

“At The James, we understand that, traditionally, patients with thyroid cancer have had their entire gland removed. However, recent data has shown that not everyone needs the same treatment, as there is truly no routine cancer. Thus, for many patients, we can often remove only a portion of the gland. In fact, for some small cancers, we can even closely monitor instead of removing, which is called ‘active surveillance’. At the other end of the spectrum are thyroid cancers resistant to these traditional therapies. For these aggressive cancers, we have several promising clinical trials that use the most cutting-edge medical treatments available.”


“While the cause of most thyroid cancers is unknown, many small cancers may not cause issues for patients. To prevent “over-treatment” of these cancers, it is important that clinicians understand that not every growth in the thyroid gland needs to be biopsied, and that many can be monitored safely without surgical or medical treatment. Experts at The James are familiar with the new strict guidelines for when to biopsy and when to observe. As well, when evaluating thyroid growths, we use the latest in testing technology to prevent unnecessary treatment of growths that turn out to be non-cancerous.”


“Survival for thyroid cancer is very high and the majority of patients have no evidence of cancer’s return after surgery and radioactive iodine treatment, if needed. However, patients’ lives are changed forever after treatment and it is important that we guide patients through the issues that may arise after they become cancer-free. At The James, we have a strong Survivorship program where patients with thyroid cancer can be monitored for long-term effects after cancer therapy.”