Feeling unusually tired and irritable? Losing or gaining weight despite no change in diet or routine? It could be your thyroid. Actress Katee Sackhoff, who stars on A&E’s “Longmire,” recently shared her experience as a survivor of thyroid cancer with us.
Sackhoff, also known for appearing on Fox’s “24” and on Syfy’s “Battlestar Galactica,” said she dismissed her exhaustion, anxiety and mood changes as work-related. But toward the end of filming for “Battlestar Galactica,” Sackhoff went to a routine check-up and found that her hectic schedule was not to blame.
In 2007, Sackhoff’s doctor found a lump on her thyroid, the one-ounce butterfly-shaped endocrine gland that sits at the base of the neck just above the collarbone.
The American Cancer Society estimates that there were over 60,000 new cases of thyroid cancer diagnosed in the United States in 2013.
The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and the American College of Endocrinology, report that thyroid conditions are more common than diabetes or heart disease. As many as 15 million Americans with various forms of thyroid disease may be undiagnosed.
Sackhoff, who is determined to raise awareness about the warning signs, said that she believes so many with thyroid conditions may not realize that they have a problem with their thyroid due to the unassuming nature of the symptoms. “Thyroid disease can present itself in so many different ways,” Sackhoff said, and her diagnosis came as a complete shock to her.
The hormone-producing thyroid gland influences the function of many of the body’s systems, and many attribute the classic signs of thyroid disease to unrelated causes such as aging, depression, or menopause.
In an article for the Society for Women’s Health Research, Dr. Jennifer Wider reported that roughly 8 out of 10 people with thyroid disease are women. Some, but not all cases of thyroid disease will cause a lump, tenderness or swelling in the neck region, Wilder noted.
If you experience swelling on your neck or any number of these symptoms, contact your doctor.
- Weight gain or weight loss
- Dry skin and hair
- Hoarse voice
- Mood changes
- Irregularity or changes in menstrual periods
- Changes in bowel movements (including constipation or diarrhea)
- Heat intolerance
- Sleep disturbances or insomnia
- Chills or tremors
There are a number of treatment options available for thyroid disease, depending upon the type of condition and the person being treated. In Sackhoff’s case, she and her doctor decided that removing her thyroid completely (a thyroidectomy) was the best solution.
Sackhoff said she feels this was the right choice for her, and that had she not had the thyroidectomy, she would have had to worry much more about the cancer returning. She now takes a daily medication that helps regulate her body in the absence of her thyroid.
Sackhoff said that while searching the Internet and combing through various resources about her condition, she noticed that there was almost no positive information about treating thyroid disease or stories of hope from others who had faced what she was going through. Now, she wants to become that missing positive outlook.
“Cancer is a scary word,” Sackhoff said, but getting tested for thyroid disease is just “an easy blood test.” Sackhoff urges others facing similar circumstances to not let fear prevent them from receiving adequate and necessary care or medical attention. If you feel “off” in any way, and the feeling persists for weeks, it is a good idea to be seen by a doctor, just in case.
Phone Interview with Sackhoff, K. January 23, 2014.
How many people get thyroid cancer?. American Cancer Society, Inc. , 09 May 2014. Web. 25 Jan. 2014. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/thyroidcancer/overviewguide/thyroid-cancer-overview-key-statistics
Wider, Jennifer. Women Suffer from Thyroid Disease More Than Men. Society of Women's Health Research , 13 Jan. 2005. Web. 25 Jan. 2014. http://www.womenshealthresearch.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5362&news_iv_ctrl=0&abbr=press_
Reviewed February 12, 2014
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith