Why we should take care of our thyroid

Published October 19, 2021, 2:38 PM

by Noel Pabalate

Thyroid disorders such as goiter, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, thyroid nodules, and thyroid cancer are highly prevalent but neglected diseases in the Philippines according to medical experts speaking before a media forum dubbed “Thyroid Care: Walking The Healthy Path.”

The thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck, plays an important role in bodily processes. The two main hormones it produces, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), circulate in the bloodstream and help regulate metabolism. It also influences your heart rate, body temperature, digestion, calorie burns, mood, energy levels, among others.

One of the panelists in the forum organized by pharmaceutical company Merck, Dr. Nemencio Nicodemus Jr., president of the Philippine Thyroid Association, said that thyroid diseases, such as goiter which mostly affect women, have been on the rise since 1993.

The thyroid gland.

“In fact, Filipinos are afflicted with goiter more than diabetes. 9 out of 100 Filipinos have it. While three other known thyroid disorders such as hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism and thyroid cancer affect a significant number, around 4 to 6 in 1000,” said Dr. Nemencio.

A population-based study by International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in collaboration with World Health Organization (WHO) also revealed that there’s a rapid increase in thyroid cancer in 25 countries all over the world.

In our country alone last year, thyroid cancer was the number seven most common cancer next to cervical cancer, even though it was the least common cause of cancer deaths at the 21st spot.

According to Dr. Adrian Fernando, head of the Head and Neck unit of the Benavides Cancer Institute in UST Hospital, the rise in thyroid cancer cases is mainly attributed to genetics, unhealthy lifestyle, and advancement in disease detection. The good thing is most thyroid diseases are treatable, especially if detected early.

Routinary examination of the head and neck and ultrasound of the thyroid are among the most common preventive measures. Conducting a blood test to determine abnormal amounts of T4 and T3 hormones is also important. These medical checkups detect lumps and nodules that can lead to cancer.

For early care of the thyroid, Dr. Nemencio advised the public to make sure to have an ideal intake of iodine through seafood and dairy products (milk, yogurt, and cheese) since iodine is the main component in producing thyroid hormones. Also, more than living a healthy lifestyle, limiting exposure to radiation is also suggested.

Dr. Raymond Tapang, Merck’s medical director, mentioned that public information on proper care of thyroid is very important too in order to dispense medically sound treatments and solutions for thyroid-related medical conditions.

To keep their lion’s share in its prevention and treatment, Merck conducts fact-based scientific education programs and media forums, while constantly improving their medicine and drugs.

“We see to it that our research and development is well-funded and clinically capable of producing the best medicines and treatments for thyroid problems,” assures Henry Wilson, president and managing director of Healthcare of Merck in the Philippines.

To further inform the public about proper thyroid healthcare, the global pharmaceutical company has come up with a Facebook page called “Unmasking Your Thyroid.” They also recommend checking other good resources online, including Thyroid.ph and Thyroidaware.com that have thyroid symptom checkers.

Symptoms of thyroid disorders are often very similar to other medical conditions such as anxiety, irritability, nervousness, trouble sleeping, losing or gaining weight, hair loss, vision problems, and the list goes on. Henry stressed that nothing beats seeking professional help if you feel there’s something wrong with your thyroid.