Thyroid Cancer is Still the Number One Cancer in Young Americans, says Melanie Goldfarb, Professor of Surgery of Saint John’s Cancer Institute.
Jackie Arechar was 28 years old when she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer mid-year in 2023. Feelings of impatience with others, even becoming contemptuous when provoked, grew to be daily occurrences. “I’m patient. I have two little ones, trust me, I’m patient and I didn’t have it,” she disclosed smiling in a video vignette after sharing the depth of how unsettling these changes in her behavior were.
I was just emotionally not myself, not my happy self.
– Jackie Arechar
Physiologically, Jackie was experiencing a hormone imbalance. Though hormonal changes are not necessarily the symptom of thyroid cancer, or for thyroid conditions, seeking workups for hormonal changes can be lifesaving as Jackie notes, “it’s a silent killer.” Thyroid cancers are slow growing, and are often found through a physical exam, or when a nodule noticeably burgeons out of the neck from the thyroid gland. None of which point to thyroid cancer specifically, but rather another underlying thyroid condition, such as a benign thyroid nodule. More importantly, which is the case for Jackie, thyroid cancers are becoming more and more a young person’s disease, according to Dr. Melanie Goldfarb, Jackie’s surgical oncologist. Even though Jackie experienced changes in her behavior, a physical exam, an ultrasound, and a biopsy confirmed she had thyroid cancer, as changes in behavior can be otherwise unrelated to the thyroid gland altogether.
It’s the scariest thing you can hear…’the C-word’
– Jackie Arechar
Jackie decided to have a thyroidectomy in July of 2023. On her way to surgery she mentions, “I teared up a bit after I left, for my kids: I don’t leave my kids or my husband.” While waiting in her room, her nurse stayed with her for two hours to make sure she was ok, and not alone. “I’ll never forget the staff… I really appreciate all the nurses that helped me out…my heart is yours.”
Immediately following her surgery with Dr. Goldfarb, the difference in her response to her surroundings was palpable. “I’m not tired, I feel good in my skin. I’m not in my thoughts, I’m not in my emotions. I can think, ‘oh, that’s scary,’ but I won’t feel scared to think about it.”
Jackie Voices Her Experience with Thyroid Cancer as a Young Adult and Mother of Two.
Jackie Arechar speaks with SJCI staff at Saint John’s Health Center alongside Dr. Goldfarb.
My kids…there’s not enough air in the world to not be with them.
– Jackie Arechar
Advice From Jackie
Get a check up. Don’t wait. “I know everyone is doing that Drake thing. You know, YOLO. But it’s not all that.” She staunchly recommends the youth of today to see a physician for a physical, even if you are not experiencing any symptoms or are at risk for a disease. (Acronym: YOLO – You Only Live Once).
Thyroid Cancer Facts
The 5-year survival rate has steadily improved since 1975 for thyroid cancer, and now stands at 98.5 percent; it’s a very curable disease. However, the rise in cases have also increased with 43,720 new cases in 2023. Thyroid cancers affect women predominately more than men, with 31,180 new cases in women and 970 in men. From these findings, thyroid cancer is seen in white European women more than any other ethnicity, and currently, reporting an uptick in cases in young Americans 20-30 years old, making it the number one cancer affecting this age group.1 Genetically, thyroid cancer is extremely rare, according to Melanie Goldfarb, MD, of which Jackie was not a subject of.
Jackie’s Care Team!
Dr. Melanie Goldfarb – Professor of Surgery at Saint John’s Cancer Institute. Dr. Goldfarb oversaw Jackie’s treatment plan and surgery. She tempered Jackie’s emotional state by creating a calm and comfortable environment, for which contributed mainly to Jackie’s decision to receive care with Saint John’s. Dr. Goldfarb is the Director for Cancer Survivorship at Saint John’s Health Center. She is the Director of the Center for Endocrine Tumors and Disorders.
Dr. Sarah Rettinger – Endocrinologist at Saint John’s Health Center. Dr. Rettinger oversaw Jackie’s medication dosage post-surgery. Jackie will visit Dr. Rettinger for any changes in medication, and to make sure she remains on the path to a happy healthy lifestyle. Dr. Rettinger and Dr. Goldfarb work closely together on individual cases.