Immunotherapy treatments for cancer provide an alternative to radiation and other traditional forms of treatment, but they can lead to a higher risk of thyroid problems in some patients. A recent study conducted by Dr. Paul G. Walfish and colleagues at Mount Sinai Hospital showed an association between certain immunotherapy approaches to metastatic cancers and a greater risk of painless thyroiditis syndrome.
Thyroid Symptoms to Watch For
Painless thyroiditis syndrome, also known as silent thyroiditis, occurs when your thyroid gland becomes inflamed. It typically causes your thyroid gland to become overactive at first, which is a condition called hyperthyroidism. After a few months, your thyroid can become underactive, leading to hypothyroidism. Thyroiditis is treatable, but it can cause complications when you’re undergoing immunotherapy. Catching it early can help reduce this risk.
You might not experience any signs of hyperthyroidism, but it’s still important to know what symptoms to watch for. Common symptoms include:
Higher sensitivity to heat
Sudden unexplained weight loss
Irregular heartbeat, palpitations or rapid heartbeat
Nervousness or irritability
If painless thyroiditis syndrome advances to hypothyroidism, you might notice the following:
Higher sensitivity to cold temperatures
Joint or muscle soreness
When you’re undergoing immunotherapy, one of the most important cancer care tips to follow is watching for any signs of an overactive or underactive thyroid. If you notice any, let your doctor know right away so you can have your thyroid tested and treated promptly if needed. This can help lower the risk of additional complications during your immunotherapy treatments.
For more information on types of immunotherapy for cancer, please contact Issels®. Our medical experts can help you choose the right treatment for your condition.
Cancer has plagued the world since the time of dinosaurs, and medicine has struggled to find a cure. When conventional treatments fail, however, new alternative cancer treatments may offer new hope.
A breakthrough in alternative cancer therapies
In one case of acute lymphoblastic leukemia, Emily, age 6, was given an experimental therapy after chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant failed to cure her. Blood was taken from Emily, passed through a machine to remove white cells, and returned to her body. University of Pennsylvania scientists then constructed CARTs, chimeric antigen receptor T-cells, from a modified HIV virus, using them to reprogram Emily’s white blood cells to hunt down and destroy the cancer cells in her body. Two years later, she is still cancer free and the poster child for this radical new alternative cancer treatment developed by Novartis.
Similar treatments in 25 children and 5 adults with Emily’s disease showed a 100 percent remission rate, in which cancer remained undetectable. As a result, Novartis is running clinical trials worldwide, determining how to limit side effects, and readying a manufacturing plant to create individualized treatments – forecasted to be completed by 2016. Novartis’ previous success with the breakthrough drug Gleevac, very successful against chronic myelogenous leukemia, a blood cancer, is seen as a good omen.
Over the past 20 years, the rate of cancer death in the U.S. has dropped a gratifying 20%, with the exception of thyroid cancer. Bucking the general trend, thyroid cancer deaths have increased slightly over the last two decades with the number of new thyroid cancer diagnoses climbing steadily, particularly among women.
Thyroid cancer accounts for only 3.6% of all new cancer diagnoses in the U.S. and just 0.3% of cancer deaths, according to the National Cancer Institute. Considered a highly treatable form of cancer, thyroid cancer has a 97.7% five-year survival rate. Even so, that thyroid cancer cases have doubled during a period when other cancer diagnoses have declined has researchers puzzled – and concerned. While better diagnostic tools and early detection certainly account for a portion of the increase, many cancer researchers believe that something else may be behind thyroid cancer’s increasing incidence and mortality. As the New York Times explained, of particular concern is the fact that thyroid cancer mortality among men, who are 3 times less likely than women to develop the disease, increased an alarming 2.4% between 1992 and 2000, the greatest increase of any type of cancer.
An additional issue is overtreatment of so called “small tumors,” tiny thyroid tumors that are unlikely to cause a problem during the patient’s lifetime. Questioning the need for surgical removal, the typical treatment for thyroid tumors, in such cases, Dr. Bryan McIver of the Mayo Clinic told the Times, “Even though the evidence does not support that it is beneficial, there is an increasing trend in the U.S., and probably worldwide, to treat all thyroid cancers in the most aggressive way.”
A disturbing new study has found that the majority of childhood cancer survivors who undergo chemotherapy have a high risk of developing chronic, life-threatening diseases as adults. Equally disturbing is the fact that these problems go undetected until they reach advanced stages, placing childhood cancer survivors at critical risk. The unfairness of the situation is not lost on childhood cancer survivors.
In a landmark study of more than 1,7000 adults who were patients at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, two-thirds of chemotherapy patients developed chronic, life-threatening conditions as adults. Of those long-deferred chemo side effects, 90% of heart conditions and 55% of lunch problems had gone undetected by the individuals’ healthcare providers until revealed by the study.
Researchers traced part of the problem to failure to transfer medical records between pediatricians and general practitioners as childhood cancer survivors entered their adult years.
“Survivors of childhood cancer, once they graduate from pediatric programs, they’re going into a community where medical providers are not going to be aware of their unique health risks,” Dr. Melissa Hudson, the study’s co-author told CBS News. (Click the link to watch the report by Dr. John LaPook.)
With nearly 400,000 childhood cancer survivors in the U.S. alone, these delayed side-effects of chemotherapy present a serious health threat that has many questioning the use of traditional cancer treatment methods which bludgeon the body with chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. Growing concern about the effects of chemotherapy have more people considering the advanced alternative cancer treatments offered at Issels Integrative Oncology cancer treatment centers that work to build up the body’s immune system instead of tearing it down.