Patient Journeys

Thyroid Cancer Patient Journey - Mrs SL

Mrs SL is a 30 year old mother of two who was diagnosed with a cancer of her thyroid gland in 2007. The diagnosis had been made incidentally. She had complained of a discomfort in the neck and had been referred by her GP for a neck ultrasound.

The ultrasound had failed to detect a cause for her pain, but did show a two centimetre nodule in her thyroid gland of which she had been previously unaware. The vast majority of thyroid nodules are non-cancerous (benign) but her GP advised a fine needle biopsy just to be certain.

Unfortunately the results of the biopsy were of papillary thyroid cancer. She was devastated. She was referred to Prof Nutting and he recommended total removal of her thyroid gland which was performed by a surgical colleague at the Royal Marsden Hospital. The operation required hospitalisation for five days but after that she was discharged home without complications and was advised to take thyroid hormone replacement.

Prof Nutting recommended further therapy with radioactive iodine. This required following a low-iodine diet for a two week period, and two injections of a thyroid hormone prior to the delivery of the treatment.

Mrs SL was admitted for the treatment with radioactive iodine. For the first twenty four hours after administration of the capsule she had very limited visiting times due to the radiation. On the second day her husband came to visit for an hour, but had to sit behind a protective lead screen to make sure that he was not exposed to potentially harmful radiation.

The next day, the visiting times were quite relaxed, although close contact was not allowed, and he could stay longer if he sat behind the lead barrier. For Mrs SL, this was a stressful time, but she was discharged on the third day and was happy to get home. She was advised to avoid contact with young children during the first ten days at home because of the residual radiation in her body. The children went to stay with their grandparents for a week.

The treatment now seems a long time ago, and Mrs SL attends Prof Nuttings' clinic on a three monthly basis for treatment follow up. Fortunately thyroid cancers have a very good prognosis with correct treatment. The cure rate at ten or even twenty years is in excess of 90%. She and her husband are now thinking of expanding their family which they have been advised is perfectly safe despite the previous therapy.

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