5 things you need to know about thyroid cancer
"Dancing With the Stars" host Brooke Burke-Charvet revealed this week she has thyroid cancer.
November 9th, 2012
12:32 PM ET

5 things you need to know about thyroid cancer

"Dancing with the Stars" host Brooke Burke-Charvet revealed Thursday she’s battling thyroid cancer via The ModernMom’s YouTube channel.

She says had no clue she had cancer - it was discovered during a routine physical.

"Doctors say this is a good kind of cancer to have. A good cancer ... that sounds so crazy," she says in the video. She says she is feeling great and is not going to let her diagnosis define her. "I'm going to make a positive out of this negative thing."

We strongly believe knowledge is power and that it's critical to be an Empowered Patient. So here are five things to know about thyroid cancer.

1. Women are more likely to get thyroid cancer then men. According to the American Cancer Society, in 2011 there were just over 48,000 new cases of thyroid cancer. Of those, 36,550 were in women and 11,470 were in men. Doctors aren't sure why.

2. It also impacts younger people. Nearly two out of three thyroid cancer cases are found in adults under 55. While it can occur at any age, women's risk peaks typically in their 40s or 50s, while the risk peaks for men usually in their 60s or 70s.

3. It tends not to be an "obvious" cancer. As was the case for Burke-Charvet, for most people there are no obvious symptoms. But over time as the cancer grows, according to the Mayo Clinic, it may cause symptoms ranging from a lump on your neck to difficulty swallowing to changes in your voice.

4. There are more cases now than there were 20 years ago. The number of thyroid cancer diagnoses have more than doubled since 1990. Why? According to the ACS, some of it is the result of the increased use of ultrasound, which can detect tiny nodules on the thyroid that might have been missed in the past.

5. The survival rate is high. Burke-Charvet says in her video that her doctor told her, "this is a happily-ever-after-ending kind of thing." If caught early, the survival rate is nearly 100%. But not everyone survives. Around 1,700 people do die, mostly because their cancer was caught in the late stages.

As for Burke-Charvet, she says that she will soon undergo a thyroidectomy which will remove her thyroid and leave a scar across her neck.

soundoff (53 Responses)
  1. RRaabe

    I have an enlarged thyroid, went to get it checked and was given an ultrasound which found many small nodules. I can feel the enlargement and swallowing is difficiult. Dr said to wait a year and do another ultrasound. Does that sound right?

    November 9, 2012 at 17:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • sally

      Nodules can go away on their own. i would however be sure to get a 2nd opinion, and possibly bloodwork. I don't have thyroid cancer, but I do have an under-active thyroid. I have a ultrasound every 6 months, and nodules that were there a year ago are gone now.

      November 9, 2012 at 19:30 | Report abuse |
    • Been There

      Don't wait. Thyroid Cancer can be slow growing and while it may stay confined to the thyroid cavity itself; you still dont want to have to deal with that. And you should look into WHY you have nodules and if by chance you have any thyroid surgery you should be on thyroid medication (synthyroid) because the thyroid tissue/nodules can grow back. If your levels are out of whack ask the Dr. why. This happened to me and cancer was misdiagnosed as "nodules". Thank goodness they got it all.

      November 11, 2012 at 20:14 | Report abuse |
  2. Yuppers

    My mother found out she had a .5 cm nodule on her thyroid and her doctor told her the same thing, to get it checked again in a year.

    November 9, 2012 at 18:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. nurse in training

    I would get a second opinion. Be proactive about your health.

    November 9, 2012 at 18:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. PittMD

    The internet is full of good information, just make sure you refer to good sources:


    November 9, 2012 at 20:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Brianna

    Why do thyroid cancer articles never go past the surgery. Life isn't 'happily ever after' post thyroidectomy. Having to be hyperthyroid on medication so cancer doesn't come back is not easy. The after effects of no thyroid is brushed under the rug. I heard the same misgivings before my surgery, and had to learn the hard way because there is hardly anyone talking about this. There is little research to determine what being hyperthyroid for years will do to my health in the future.

    November 9, 2012 at 21:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kris

      Brianna, you are right. I had Thyroid Cancer and after the surgery, I soon realized my life would be more like that of a Diabetic or someone with a chronic illness. This is not like typical cancers in that after 5 years of no recurrance, you are good to go. We face a lifetime of monitoring, a pill every morning and the chance of recurrance for the rest of our lives.

      November 10, 2012 at 08:31 | Report abuse |
    • Jessica

      Exactly – my life is horrible now with no thyroid! Taking synthroid the rest of your life and what is has done to the rest of my body! I have some pretty worthless days and I'm still young. I don't think it was fair to take my entire thyroid as a precaution wishing I would have had a 2nd opionion.

      November 12, 2012 at 11:16 | Report abuse |
    • Cheryl

      I've read it before but forgot...why is it that hyperthyroidism is "induced" after thyroid cancer and thyroid removal? To keep TSH suppressed and keep any other wayward thyroid cancer cells suppressed? I can't remember. I've got Graves Disease so I am hyperthyroid. Although it gave my heartbeat some irregularity when I was really bad, I can't help but wonder if being slightly hyperthyroid doesn't help in the long run since it keeps your cholesterol so low? I really frustrate my doctor.

      November 12, 2012 at 21:53 | Report abuse |
  6. Me

    My grandmother had thryoid cancer and had radiation. She subsequently had cancer of the voicebox and lost her voice. She also survived skin cancer on her face. She lived to be 93 years old. We always wondered if the radiation didn't do further damage to her face. You can survive cancer. My sister was not so lucky-she passed away at 54-years old of ovarian cancer unfortunately.

    November 10, 2012 at 13:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Judy

    I have several nodules on my thyroid. Once found, I had an ultrasound and a biopsy. I'm on the ultrasound-a-year program at least for now, since my thyroid is still functioning normally. If the nodules start to grow or the bloodwork comes back abnormal, we'll go from there but I feel pretty good about the treatment plan so far.

    November 12, 2012 at 13:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Valerie

    I am a cancer survivor of 44 years with thyroid and 34 years of ovarian. There is life after cancer, for some. Dont hesitate for 2nd opinions when it comes to your body and health. I was a child of 10 and thank goodness my parents were pro-active in my health care. Yes, I take medication everyday and will for the rest of my life, but God has blessed me and I am grateful. Stay positive ......

    November 12, 2012 at 14:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Student T

    There are some questions why thyroid nodules are common among middle class women?
    Do you think it is related to ingredients found in personal care product, birth control pills or results of using nuclear energy (drinking radiation-tainted milk perhaps?).
    Or maybe so called papillary cancers are not actually cancers?
    Some sources even blaming iodine for reducing iodine –deficient goiters but creating thyroid nodules instead

    November 13, 2012 at 13:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Susan

    I wish people would stop it with the "good kind of cancer", "happily ever after nonsense." You may not have to worry about dying but you are left to live with a chronic health condition. It's not just a pill you take for the rest of your life, these thyroid replacement hormones do not do what your thyroid did. I have yet to feel like my old self. I am forgetful and tired all the time. I'm only 29 and feel like a trainwreck 80% of the time. Where's my "happily ever after"?! Give it a rest.

    November 19, 2012 at 21:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. yh8

    Be glad you're alive. I also had cancer of the thyroid and had the entire organ removed. I feel tired and forgetful all the time too but I'm still alive. It could have been worse. Be GLAD IT WASN'T BLOOD OR BONE CANCER. Stop whining and thank God for your second chance.

    November 26, 2012 at 10:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Hurthle Cell survivor

      I don't think Susan was complaining or whining. It's highly offensive to say, "oh, you have the good cancer!" What? Good and cancer don't belong in the same sentence. I was diagnosed in 2006 at 16 weeks pregnant with Hurthle Cell carcinoma. I am thankful to be alive and realize how fortunate I am. Still, I have to take synthroid daily, along with two different medications to control the effects of being hyperthyroid.

      Being a thyroid patient yourself, I'm somewhat shocked by your lack of compassion.

      July 4, 2014 at 18:51 | Report abuse |
    • Sickened

      Yh8, you sound like a nasty, hateful person. Stop judging. Get over yourself. What an unhelpful comment.

      March 2, 2016 at 23:39 | Report abuse |
  12. Ashley

    I have to agree with Susan on this one yh8. After having thyroid cancer, I did not have a simple life. I had to withdraw the semester and still have to pay for the tution I never completed. I fell asleep constantly. Doctor told me I could of gone into a coma. I still own around 20000 dollars for the surgery which wasnt fully cover. My finances are way low. I am not enjoying thyroid cancer one bit.

    February 14, 2014 at 01:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Ashley

    I am working really hard. but it just doesnt seem easy.

    February 14, 2014 at 01:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Marie

    Over 1 year ago while having MRI of the neck, the doctor found two nodules in my right thyroid. This last may my PCP referred me to a specialist who looked at my blood work and said, "NO cancer", but, the nodules were growing and pressing against my trachea, which was causing me breathing problems. So by the end of June, I was at Loma Linda having the right side removed. Thank God everything went well. The doctor's never mentioned Cancer and I was told by the specialist, No Cancer, so after the surgery I went home. Today, I saw my PCP (4 mo have gone by) and I told her my symptoms. She looked up the lab work from Loma Linda and she said, "Well what did the doc's at Loma Linda give you for the "Cancer"? What???? I was never, not once told anything about having cancer. She said I must see them immediately. I called Loma Linda,and insisted on an appt next week (they wanted me to wait til end of Dec'14) and the nurse said,"Well, we did tell you to follow up". So I told her no one ever mentioned anything about cancer. Here is my thing, I don't know if the whole thyroid was removed. I asked her, "What is your policy when you receive a lab report staying "Cancer", do you not call the patient immediately, because obviously, If you would've looked at your appt schedule, you would've seen I never returned." She replied, "Well, how are we suppose to know you didn't return" What?? OM Gosh, and she was rude. All she did say, and then corrected herself was, "Well, I don't know where the mistake was done, I mean if there was a mistake". Of course there was a mistake!! What if I wouldn't have asked my PCP about my thyroid symptoms? I would still not know that I have Cancer. So of course now I'm so worried. Did it spread?, Did they take the whole thyroid out? Well, I guess I'll find out next week.

    October 24, 2014 at 02:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • C

      Marie, I have the same thing , still waiting on to have it removed. I'm trying a no iodine diet , vegan diet to it them to shrink! now I'm worried that if it is cancer after blood test said its fine. What were your symptoms that made you go back to the doctor? did you find out if they took the whole thing out or just the right side? How are you doing now ?

      May 21, 2015 at 13:12 | Report abuse |
  15. Amit Joshi

    Very informative post! Nicely explained all about thyroid cancer. To know more about thyroid surgery and treatment click here – http://www.drshirishbhagvat.com/thyroid-surgery.html

    December 26, 2016 at 07:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. steve

    Hi, Thanks for sharing your article. Thyroid patients really needs the opinions who are experiences. They need to know the all symptoms of thyroid and also treatments.


    May 23, 2017 at 04:05 | Report abuse | Reply
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    September 10, 2017 at 20:23 | Report abuse | Reply
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    September 10, 2017 at 21:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. JLap

    As a counterpoint to some of the experiences described above (not discounting them, just saying it can vary):

    At 38, I went to the doctor because I felt fatigued – I was falling asleep at my desk at work, and sleeping 12 hours straight on the weekends. Doc sent me to an endocrinologist, who sent me for blood work which identified hypothyroidism, which she began medicating me for. She also felt a nodule. Went for an ultrasound (they found three nodules, and recommended the largest be biopsed). Doc decided to biopsy all three – one nodule (the big one, about 6cm)was non-cancerous, one was undetermined, one was papillary carcinoma. Had a total thyroidectomy 3 months later.

    The first few months were tough, not because of the surgery, but because it took some time to identify they right synthroid dose (doc also suggests name brand (Unithroid) instead of generics – says they vary too much). Parathyroid was damaged, probably during surgery, and now it operates at a low normal. So, I take daily doses of synthroid and of calcium. Taking a bunch of pills every day is a drag, but a manageable one.

    On the good side – I feel better than I've felt in years. I'm also overweight, and was never able to lose weight, no matter what I did. But in the year since the surgery, with some minor dietary changes (changes I had tried before to no avail), I've lost about 60 pounds.

    So, I guess I'm just saying – if someone reading this has been newly diagnosed, please know it may be scary, but there may be a silver lining. By all means, get a second opinion and be your own advocate through the process, but it may not be as awful for you as for others on the internet. Good luck!

    September 12, 2017 at 12:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Traceyw

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    Hi I receive

    Hi I recently had right thyroid removed as bad large nodule surgeon said had no worries thought was benign so was surprised six weeks later they found cancer inside nodule less than 5ml waiting on cat scan but hoping all is removed

    April 29, 2018 at 15:37 | Report abuse | Reply
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