A Utah medical expert asserts that although thyroid cancer is common, the strain which led to the death of LDS leader Elder L. Tom Perry is rare.
According to a head and neck oncologist at Intermountain Medical Center the younger a patient is diagnosed with thyroid cancer, the better the prognosis. Unfortunately, when a patient is older, thyroid cancer becomes one of the most deadly.
Thyroid cancer most commonly develops between age 20 and 50 years old and is the most prevalent in young women. The most common type is papillary cancer, which is also the most curable type.
Generally a thyroidectomy solves most cases and is almost always followed by an evaluation of lymph nodes and then sometimes a dose of radioactive iodine.
Many thyroid cancer patients end up taking daily thyroid hormone medication and undergo various simple tests and examinations following removal of the gland but otherwise their life function returns to normal.
Elder Perry succumbed to anaplastic thyroid cancer, the rarest type. It typically affects people age 65 and older and develops from unknown causes. The worst news is that it is completely incurable.
Doctors sometimes prescribe radiation to slow down progression of the disease, however, surgery to remove the cancer is rare and hardly ever effective.
In most cases, the cancer grows so quickly that it spreads to the lungs, trachea and/or blood vessels and prohibits proper eating and breathing.
Life expectancy with anaplastic thyroid cancer is generally less than a year, with the median life span after diagnosis about three months.
Symptoms which alert patients and doctors of thyroid cancer can include hoarseness in their voice, compression of the airway or shortness of breath, difficulty swallowing, or discovering a rapidly growing mass in their neck.
Most patients either feel a mass themselves or notice it through a routine physical exam or specialized imaging for another purpose.
According to experts, as people get older the types of cancer they develop are usually more progressive.