“Dana, your mammogram results are abnormal. You have unidentified masses in both left and right breasts. You must schedule a follow-up mammogram and ultrasound immediately.”
I approach the large white mammogram machine. A fear like nothing I’ve ever experienced before crashes over me. “Please I need to sit down a moment. I am sorry. I am very afraid.”
The relationship between hypothyroidism and breast cancer has been a topic of debate in the scientific research for over 50 years. Many studies have shown a positive association between hypothyroidism and breast cancer, while others have refuted these findings. This subject remains controversial.
Eighteenth century Austrian monarch, Empress Maria Theresa, passed a law that mandated autopsies be performed on all hospital deaths occurring in the city of Graz, Austria. Many of the people residing in Graz suffered from hypothyroidism and goiter. Broda Barnes in his legendary book Hypothyroidism: The Unsuspected Illness wrote about the data he collected from 26,546 autopsies done in Graz from 1944 through 1958. He wrote in his book that in Graz, where hypothyroidism was endemic, the rate of all forms of cancer was the highest in the Western world.
Back in 1976 in The Journal of the American Medical Association, Broda Barnes published his article Thyroid Supplements and Breast Cancer. He wrote to the editor about his personal unpublished observations on the routine autopsies performed in Graz, Austria. Broda Barnes wrote:1
“Graz is a goiter area; the entire population suffers from a relative thyroid deficiency. Thyroid replacement is rarely employed there. Yet the incidence of breast cancer is as high as ten times that seen in the United States.”
In 2012 a meta-analysis was conducted on 28 related studies. Researchers discovered: 2
“There was significant evidence of an increased risk of Breast Cancer in patients with autoimmune thyroiditis. In addition, the results supported an increased risk associated with the presence of anti-thyroid antibodies and goitre.
While these results indicate an association between thyroid auto-immunity and Breast Cancer, further prospective studies are required to definitively prove causality.”
Breast cancer is currently the top cancer in women worldwide.3 The Thyroid Federation International estimates there are up to 300 million people, majority women, with thyroid dysfunction worldwide yet over half are unaware of their condition. Isn’t it about time a more extensive research campaign is made to investigate this potentially deadly link once and for all?
There are three women in the waiting room when I return from my mammogram and ultrasound. We are waiting for our results. The fear in this room is so intense. A darkness comes over me. Somehow deep within me I know there is real danger and every woman in the room knows it too. I think of my two boys, my husband, my beautiful family members, my friends, and wonder what the world would be like without me. There is a darkness that comes over me. I’ve never experienced it before.
The nurse returns. “Dana, your mammogram and ultrasound results are negative. There is no sign of cancer.” The three other women, who met me only an hour ago, begin clapping. Three strangers are clapping for me. I turn to them and my voice shakes, “Thank you.” I walk out of the building onto the crowded New York City street with tears streaming down my face.
Is Your Thyroid Killing You?
On a cold snowy day this very month January back in 2009, my thyroid did succeed in killing my unborn baby, a loss that filled me with so much rage that I created Hypothyroid Mom to warn women about hypothyroidism.
Do you think I wouldn’t take this breast cancer scare seriously? After all that’s happened to me from hypothyroidism, you bet I will take charge of my health and not take any chances. When I was pregnant with my baby that fateful pregnancy, I didn’t do any research on my own and I trusted my doctors unquestioningly. Don’t think I’ll keep my mouth shut this time. Yes there are conflicting results in the scientific research, but the fact that there are many research studies spanning over 50 years showing a potential relationship between breast cancer and hypothyroidism is a red flag. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
FIGHT LIKE A WARRIOR.
This is a CALL TO ACTION.
To all my readers, be an advocate for yourself and TAKE CHARGE of your health. Insist on having your thyroid properly tested including Free T4, Free T3 and thyroid antibodies.
To all the hypothyroid women, be vigilant and proactive about your breast health. Until there is sufficient evidence that proves there is absolutely no risk, don’t take a chance.
To all the breast cancer advocacy groups, please warn your communities of the potential risk and encourage them to have their thyroid tested.
To all the researchers, please take a closer look at the number of studies linking hypothyroidism to breast health. There are multiple studies that warrant further attention and additional study.
To all the doctors, please take a closer look at the current mainstream medical model for thyroid disorder and make change. Please also be vigilant about your thyroid patients’ breast health.
To all my readers, please share this post with everyone you know. Someone you know may have hypothyroidism and not even know it.
To all my cancer survivors, my heart is heavy every time a new cancer survivor joins me here at Hypothyroid Mom. TAKE CHARGE of your health and insist on proper thyroid testing. Be vigilant about your breast health. You are all WARRIORS.
I updated the Hypothyroid Mom Top Resources page to include several great thyroid bloggers. Thank you to each person on this list for creating sites that let us know we are not alone.
- Broda Barnes, PhD. Thyroid Supplements and Breast Cancer. JAMA 1976;236(24):2743-2744 ↩
- Hardefeldt, P.J., Eslick, G.D., Edirimanne, S. Benign thyroid disease is associated with breast cancer: a meta-analysis. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2012 June; 133(3):1169-77 ↩
- World Health Organization. Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Retrieved from: http://www.who.int/cancer/en/ ↩