Saturday, October 3, 2009

Anaplastic Cancer

Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer is the least common type of thyroid cancer. It is also the most deadly of all thyroid cancers.

This form of cancer has an extremely low cure rate. The best treatments available allow only 10% of patients live 3 years after diagnosis. A larger percentage of patients diagnosed with it do not live beyond one year from the day cancer is diagnosed. It can arise within a different type of thyroid cancer. It can even form within a goiter. Anaplastic thyroid cancer can develop after many, many years following radiation exposure. Papillary cancer develops the same way. Cervical metastasis is when the cancer spreads to the lymph nodes in the neck. This is present in over 90% of patients diagnosed with anaplastic thyroid cancer. The appearance of lymph node metastasis in cervical areas cause much higher recurrence rate of anaplastic thyroid cancer and increases a patient's mortality rate. The cancer becomes noticeable as growing neck mass. It can feel large and very hard. This type of tumor grows very quickly. It may grow so quickly that the patient may not even notice it at first. All of a sudden, it gets much larger every few days and can be a source of great distress.

Anaplastic cancers are aggressive. They invade nearby structures and spreads throughout the cervical lymph nodes. This cancer also invades organs in other parts of the body such as the lungs and bones. 25% of patients show invasion into the trachea at the time of diagnosis. It grows out of the thyroid and spreads directly to the trachea. This is the reason why a large of number of patients need a tracheostomy. This procedure is not needed with the other forms of thyroid cancer. 50% of patients diagnosed with this disease show presence of the cancer in lungs as well. Most of the time, these cancers are attached to important parts of your neck making it impossible for the surgeon to remove. In situations like this, aggressive therapy protocols don't improve mortality rates extensively. Aggressive therapy may include hyper-fractionated radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgery. Even with all this, survival for at up to 3 years is less than 10%.

Characteristics of Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer

Affects persons age 65 and up
Extremely rare in young patients
More common in males than females by a ration of 2 to 1
Usually manifests as an enlarged and growing neck mass
Can recur after many years after radiation exposure
in over 90% of occurrences the cancer spread to lymph nodes of the neck
Can show evidence of spread to distant areas in the body at diagnosis
Extremely low cure rate
Usually requires aggressive treatment including surgery, radiation and even chemotherapy.
Aggressively spreads to trachea often requiring tracheostomy to maintain airway.

Management of Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer
The biggest problem is its aggressiveness and invasiveness when diagnosed. Only a small percentage of patients diagnosed can undergo surgery to attain a cure. If patients are diagnosed at an early stage, total thyroidectomy is required. Patients in the advanced stage of the cancer cannot undergo surgery. They benefit more from external-beam radiation. There are chemotherapy treatments that can also benefit patients with this cancer.

It was reported in a case study that in October 2004, Chief Justice William Rehnquist was diagnosed with anaplastic thyroid cancer. He received the best medical treatments in the world including yearly physical exams. The enlarged growth in his neck was getting larger which is typical for this type of disease. He was in the typical age range for those who develop this aggressive form of cancer. When he was diagnosed went in for a procedure, a tracheostomy. The procedure as discussed above is typical of patients who have developed this disease. The procedure is hardly ever administered for other types of thyroid cancer. Afterwards, he began external-beam radiation therapy. This is also only done, for the most part, on person who suffer from this type of cancer and is not a procedure used in patients who have developed papillary or follicular thyroid cancer. He then began chemotherapy treatments. This treatment, just like the afore-mentioned treatments, are never used for other types of thyroid cancer including Hurthle cell cancer.

In the beginning of 2005, Chief Justice Rehnquist was healthy enough and present to swear in George W. Bush as president for a second term. Towards the fall of 2005, Chief Justice Rehnquist died at home at the age of 80. He died within 11 months of diagnosis. Not all anaplastic cancers necessarily die. However early and aggressive treatment can improve the chances of the cancer sufferer.

The general feeling among anaplastic thyroid cancer sufferers is that if the cancer was diagnosed much earlier, things would be much better and the chances of recovery greatly improved. However, the fact is that anaplastic thyroid cancer is so hard to detect in the early stage. Not only is it hard to detect, but it also is progresses rapidly. Even in instances when the cancer is detected early, the majority of patients still develop the disease in other areas of the body. All things considered, all patients are in the same boat of being diagnosed late.

It is also important to keep in mind that patients respond differently to the same cancer treatment. What might work for one patient may not necessarily work for another. Because of all the above, anaplastic thyroid cancer becomes much harder to predict.

No comments:

Post a Comment