Monday, February 23, 2009

Breast Cancer and thyroid disorders

On the TNBC boards, I've noticed many ladies have complained of thyroid disorders but I didn't think much about it as thyroid disorders are so common, at least half of my friends have one and they seem to be cancer-free. However reading further suggests a link. One study took a large group of women, half with newly diagnosed breast cancer and half cancer-free, and measured anti-thyroid antibodies. 45% of the cancer ladies had them compared to 11% of the cancer -free ladies!!! ( Only a few of these women had clinical signs of a thyroid disorder. see also:,,

Thyroid disorders are eight times more common in women, a fact that has always puzzled me as men have thyroids too. This suggests possible female hormone involvement. Thyroid disorders tend to rear their ugly heads during time of great hormonal change. For Graves' Disease (my particular disorder), puberty sometimes brings it on (one of the girls I coached was hit so hard by it, she needed to be hospitalized), pregnancy (it developed for me shortly after Naomi's birth), and menopause. Furthermore, the few men that develop TD (thyroid disorders) often get gynecomastia (man boobs). Hmm. HCG (pregnancy hormone) itself is a mild thyroid stimulator. In conditions that excess HCG is produced (molar pregnancy, choriocarcinoma, hyperememis gravidarum i. e. excess puking), patients have all the signs of hyperthyroidism.

Thyroid disorders are largely autoimmune diseases. (some are caused by pitutary malfunctions but much, much rarer). In patients with disease, there are these 'antithyroid peroxidase antibodies". In Graves' disease, these antibodies stimulate the thyroid to overproduce and the patient becomes hyperthyroid-no fun, trust me on that. The 'cure' is to remove the thyroid, either surgically or by destroying it with radiation (my way), and the patient needs to take replacement hormone. However, these antibodies are still present. Sometimes (50% of the time), they stimulate the eyeball to produce excess fluid and the patient develops bulging eyeballs that are so big, they can't close their eyes (like my soccer player). I was spared that. Other times (much rarer), it attacks the skin to cause thickening and severe itching (a friend of mine had that as her only symptom). Apparently these f***ing antibodies might have a more evil effect that has yet to be clearly elucidated. In Hashimoto's disease, the much more common TD, these same or at least very similar, antibodies cause the thyroid to be destroyed resulting in hypothyroidism-also not fun as I have experienced it too. It seems strange that in one case, these antibodies act as an agonist and in the more common case, act as an antiagonist. Maybe the antibody tests can't distinguish the subtle chemical differences between the two potential antibodies. They definitely have diverse effects. But the fact that these antibodies seem to be floating around in breast cancer patients selectively suggests a role.

Most of the background info given is from the Merck Manual. For background info see:
To be fair, some studies show no link between TD and BC. Dr. Susan Love never even addresses it.

Somewhere buried in all my readings, with which I am not yet finished, is that BC in patients who have thyroid disorders, is much easier to treat and has better outcomes. I will cling to any little shred of positive news.

Enough of my rambling. It is Day 84 of my sentence in chemoprison, 28 days to go but maybe, I don't need to count the last 7 days as hopefully I will feel closer to normal in that time. I dread tomorrow as it is an infusion day and also I feel I will be pressured to make a decision concerning the Zometa. My gut feeling is that I don't want it even if it MIGHT cut down my chances of developing mets. I usually try to run during my good days but the streets are still slippery. I did go for an hour walk and hope to today also. My taste buds are returning to their pre-chemo selves. I drink coffee again. Still wine is yucky-I tried a little.Some of my friends came over to watch the Oscars, which was fun. I was right in most of my predictions except for the short cartoon and Sean Penn. Bball again tonight at the Rat Dome, which was recently renamed the Greenhouse.

To keep myself reasonably sane, I view my present ordeal as six months of hell that I need to get through but then I can be done with it and go on with my life sort of like my broken arm episode of 2007. But then there are reminders that this might now not be just a short, painful chapter in the middle of my life but the beginning of the end. See Tracy's story in "Renee's Bump in the Road" that can be found under blogs I subscribe to. Tracy was diagnosed with Stage 2b TNBC as she was nursing her son 8 years ago in her early thirties. (I am stage 2a-less scary). A year after treatment, it was found in her nodes eventually spreading to her lungs and brain. The various tumors were dealt with by more and more chemo, surgery, and radiation. She had few 'normal periods' of living but seemed always hopeful. For the past 6 months, she has struggled to even breathe due to diffuse tumors throughout her lungs. Friday she died.


Renee said...

Very interesting stats and info about thyroid disorders and BC.

Go with your gut on Zometa. I personally have not researched this drug . . .but I'm sure you have as you are so good at researching. On this journey, there have been a few times I wished I listened to my gut and spoke up against the doctors. From now on, tho, I will!

Glad to see that you are still getting some exercise. I'm jealous! I'm trying to be consistent just doing 15 minutes on my lunch break!


Sophia Grace said...

Are you always feeling tired because of your under active thyroid, then natural thyroid supplement is for you. This supplements gives you that additional hormones your body needs to give you that energy to get you through the day.

Sophia Grace said...

Nothing can beat the effectiveness of bovine thyroid supplement . Within just a few weeks of taking it you'll surely feel its benefits and can really get you back in good health.

Rhian said...

After the long struggle from hypothyroidism, i finally got the relief i was hoping for quite a long time. I used to take synthetic drugs my Doctor prescribed me with, but it only brought more pain than relief. But after taking thyroid supplements , in just a few weeks i started to feel better.


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