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Smart Care&Choice print

Smart Care, Smart Choice : THYROID CANCER

Thyroid Cancer

Almost Benign, But the Most Common Cancer Among Women

Thyroid cancer is highly curable and even considered benign. However, it is one of the most common cancers these days. A survey conducted on 19 ethnic groups across 5 continents showed that the incidence rate for thyroid cancer has increased by 58% over the past 30 years.

The thyroid gland controls how quickly the body uses energy and how it produces and secretes thyroid hormones. The hormones are essential in that they maintain a person’s body temperature by generating heat, they develop brain and bone tissues in children, and they generate heartbeats and manage stress.

Thyroid cancer is easily treated and has a 10-year survival rate of 85~95%. However, it is the most common cancer among women; in fact, it is five to six times more common in women than men. You need to have a physical examination if you feel a bump inside your neck or you have a sudden change of voice. Those who have a family member who has suffered from this cancer or who has received radiation therapy above the neck should get an examination.

The Cancer That is the Most Concerning After A Nuclear Accident

The cause of thyroid cancer is unknown but certain risk factors have been identified, which include exposure to high levels of radiation, a family history of goiter, a certain dietary habit, and a family medical history of thyroid diseases. Several epidemiological investigations have shown that people who have received radiation to the head or neck area during childhood tend to develop thyroid cancer later in life.

Exposure to radiation through a nuclear accident is another cause of the cancer. The representative cases are seen in the residents of Marshall Island who were exposed to radiation due to tests conducted by the U.S. Army in 1950; and in children who lived near the site of the Chernobyl nuclear accident in Ukraine in 1986. Children under the age of 6 in Chernobyl developed thyroid cancer at a rate of five to eight times more than those who had lived in other areas during the accident, four to eight years after the accident. Thyroid cancer is also the disease that is the most concerning after the recent Fukushima nuclear accident.

Korea, Country with the Highest Thyroid Cancer Survival Rate in the World

Recent statistics indicate that Korea has an excellent treatment plan for thyroid cancer compared to the U.S., Japan and European countries. According to the National Cancer Registration & Statistics (2009), which is complied with data published by various countries, the five-year survival rate in Korea is 99.7%, higher than the U.S. (97.2%), Japan (92.4%) and Europe (83.2%). In other words, Korean patients are 14% and 2% more likely to survive than their European and American counterparts respectively. Such a high survival rate is attributed to early diagnosis and a detailed examination. The high rate of success and full recovery is due to the sophisticated medical equipment and the top rated professionals with excellent medical techniques.

Korea’s cancer centers, which are established in well known general and university hospitals, have built a system through which cancer care professionals can gather together to focus on cancer treatments ranging from examination to research. This thus creates a synergy effect in treating various types of cancers. This system is so effective that doctors from the U.S. and Europe have visited Korea to learn from these cancer centers.

Newly-found Life in Korea – Successful Surgery on Russian Patient with Metastasis to the Thyroid Gland

Zinoveva Svetlana (female, aged 47) who lives in Khabarovsk, Russia was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at a local hospital in mid-September, 2011. The cancer had spread to nearby lymph nodes and to blood vessels near her heart. She heard that her cancer was incurable. She was hospitalized at a medical center in Khabarovsk due to her deteriorated condition. One day, she was told that she can get surgery through a telemedicine program with Gangnam Severance Hospital, which signed an MOU with her hospital. She then visited Seoul with hopes of being cured.

Gangnam Severance Hospital examined her and found that the concentration of calcitonin, which is a thyroid hormone known to participate in calcium metabolism, has already reached 2500. An elevated concentration of calcitonin means that the cancer has spread to a wider area. If the calcitonin concentration is over 2000, 1/3 of the cancer would be inoperable. However, the hospital successfully conducted a five-hour surgery and removed all the cancer cells.

In order to alleviate the burden the patient had while she was alone in Korea for her surgery, Gangnam Severance Hospital provided detailed explanations and answered the questions the patient had with the help of a Russian doctor who was in the hospital for research purposes. Moreover, the hospital invited Reverend Evgeny,, a pastor from the Incheon area in Korea, to pray for her recovery and dispel her fears before the surgery.

The successful surgery made Zinoveva smile again. In order to maintain good health after the surgery, regular checkups are a must. In Zinoveva’s case she can get remote treatment at the U-Health Center in Vladivostok (run by the Korea Tourism Organization) without having to visit Korea. Through the remote treatment system, exam results performed by her local hospital can be sent to her doctor in Seoul.

U-Health Center
Location: Hyundai Hotel 5th floor, Vladivostok, Russia
Facilities: Four remote treatment booths, two video counseling systems using LCG monitors
Staff: One Russian doctor, one nurse and one coordinator
Major Operation: Medical counseling, post-op management for patients who returned to their countries after treatment in Korea, remote seminars

Gangnam Severance Hospital

The Gangnam Severance Hospital acquired Joint Commission International (JCI) accreditation and certification in 2010 and has successfully conducted about 5,000 surgeries for thyroid, colorectal, stomach and prostate cancers. Under its agreement with Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina, a U.S. representative insurance company, American policy-holders can get treatment at the Gangnam Severance Hospital. The hospital also offers a one-stop service, from examination to treatment, within a short period. This Fast Track System, which starts from the time the patient enters Korea to when they depart, is dedicated to the needs of international patients.

Seoul National University Hospital

Mr. Nawal (male, aged 42) is a doctor at the Health Administration in Abu Dhabi. He happened to find out that he had thyroid cancer while he was visiting Korea. He came to Korea as an escort for child patients for whom the Abu Dhabi Health Administration had requested treatment for at the Seoul National University Hospital on May 22, 2012. After having the children examined, he also took a physical exam himself on May 24. He was worried about his health because some of his family members were suffering from chronic thyroiditis. After the examination, he was diagnosed with a thyroid disorder. The next day, he took a detailed biopsy and left Korea. The International Treatment Center at the Seoul National University Hospital found that he had thyroid cancer through its test results. Right after Mr. Nawal was told the news, he came back to Korea to have surgery.

Mr. Nawal can get reimbursements on his medical expenses from the Health Administration no matter where in the world he gets his surgery, since he is a doctor working for the organization. Nevertheless, he chose the Seoul National University Hospital in Korea instead of hospitals in other advanced countries like the U.S. The fact that a medical expert chose Korea clearly proves that Korea’s medical environment is trustworthy.

In the case of the Arab Emirates including Abu Dhabi, patients are sent overseas due to insufficient medical staff, high expenses and poor medical service within the country. The Abu Dhabi Health Administration has so far referred their patients to medical centers in the U.S., the U.K., Germany, Thailand and Singapore. Recently, however, patients are often treated in large hospitals in Korea due to the nation’s excellent medical technologies and treatment results.

For example, a brother of the Director at the International Cooperation Department for the Abu Dhabi Health Administration had surgery for his cancer at Seoul National University Hospital. Employees of the Administration who used to refer patients to other countries have witnessed Korea’s excellent medical technologies, modern system and good post-op results. Accordingly, they themselves get treatment in Korea or recommend their relatives to be treated in Korean hospitals more frequently.

Seoul National University Hospital

The Seoul National University Hospital has conducted more than 10,000 thyroid cancer surgeries and 1,000 thyroid cancer surgeries using robots. The hospital is strengthening cooperative ties with health centers in Abu Dhabi. The hospital’s International Healthcare Center helps patients with medical appointments, examinations and payments in various languages such as English, Chinese, Japanese, Mongolian and Russian. The SNUH LA Office offers medical advices to Korean living in the U.S. or to Americans.

Healing Destination for Your Body and Soul

Once you have your thyroid removed, you need to take thyroid hormones for the rest of your life as your body will not be able to generate these hormones. Therefore, it is all the more important to manage your health and control stress. In this regard, it is good to get out of town, relax and let yourself recuperate after the surgery.

If you have surgery in a Korean hospital, it would be good to learn how to live a “slow life” by visiting the villages near Mt. Jirisan, the most remote mountain in Korea. Hadong, Korea is famous for the lazy Sumjin river and beautiful flower way. You can breathe in the clean air from Jirisan forest and enjoy a temple stay nearby. The food offered at the mountain temples are good for patients with thyroid cancer since it is a healthy meal of vegetables which do not stimulate the liver. In addition, handmade green teas, one of the specialties of Hadong, are roasted by hands providing a good taste and color. Catechins in green tea are known to reduce the risks of cancer.

While breathing in clean fresh air and taking in the beautiful nature, you can experience healing and release your body of the stresses and fatigue that have accumulated over time.

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