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  • January 14, 2022

    By Allison Larson, MD

    Whether you’re a winter sports enthusiast or spend the season curled up by the fireplace, the low humidity, bitter winds, and dry indoor heat that accompany cold weather can deplete your skin’s natural moisture. Dry skin is not only painful, uncomfortable, and irritating; it also can lead to skin conditions such as eczema, which results in itchy, red, bumpy skin patches. 


    Follow these six tips to prevent and treat skin damage caused by winter dryness.


    1. Do: Wear sunscreen all year long.

    UV rays can easily penetrate cloudy skies to dry out exposed skin. And when the sun is shining, snow and ice reflect its rays, increasing UV exposure. 


    Getting a sunburn can cause severe dryness, premature aging of the skin, and skin cancer. Snow or shine, apply sunscreen before participating in any outdoor activity during the winter—especially if you take a tropical vacation to escape the cold; your skin is less accustomed to sunlight and more likely to burn quickly.


    The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends sunscreen that offers protection against both UVA and UVB rays, and offers a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30.


    That being said, if you are considering laser skin treatments to reduce wrinkles, hair, blemishes, or acne scars, winter is a better time to receive these procedures. Sun exposure shortly after a treatment increases the risk of hyperpigmentation (darkening of the skin), and people are less likely to spend time outside during the winter.


    Related reading: 7 Simple Ways to Protect Your Skin in the Sun

    2. Do: Skip products with drying ingredients.

    Soaps or facial products you use in warm weather with no issues may irritate your skin during colder seasons. This is because they contain ingredients that can cause dryness, but the effects aren’t noticeable until they’re worsened by the dry winter climate.

    You may need to take a break from:

    • Anti-acne medications containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid
    • Antibacterial and detergent-based soap
    • Anything containing fragrance, from soap to hand sanitizer

    Hand washing and the use of hand sanitizer, which contains a high level of skin-drying alcohol, cannot be avoided; we need to maintain good hand hygiene to stop the spread of germs. If your job or lifestyle requires frequent hand washing or sanitizing, routinely apply hand cream throughout the day as well.


    During the COVID-19 pandemic, I have seen a lot of people develop hand dermatitis—a condition with itchy, burning skin that can swell and blister—due to constant hand washing. Sometimes the fix is as simple as changing the soap they're using. Sensitive-skin soap is the best product for dry skin; it typically foams up less but still cleans the skin efficiently.


    3. Do: Pay closer attention to thick skin.

    Areas of thin skin, such as the face and backs of your hands, are usually exposed to the wind and sun the most. It’s easy to tell when they start drying out. But the thick skin on your palms and bottoms of your feet is also prone to dryness—and tends to receive less attention.


    When thick skin gets dry, fissures form. You’ll see the surface turn white and scaly; then deep, linear cracks will appear. It isn’t as pliable as thin skin. When you’re constantly on your feet or using your hands to work, cook, and everything in between, dry thick skin cracks instead of flexing with your movements. 


    To soften cracked skin, gently massage a heavy-duty moisturizer—such as Vaseline—into the affected area once or twice a day. You can also talk with your doctor about using a skin-safe adhesive to close the fissures and help them heal faster.


    Related reading:  Follow these 5 Tips for Healthy Skin

    4. Don’t believe the myth that drinking more water will fix dry skin.

    Contrary to popular belief, the amount of water or fluids you drink does not play a major role in skin hydration—unless you’re severely dehydrated. In the winter, especially, dry skin is caused by external elements; it should be treated from the outside as well. 


    The best way to keep skin hydrated and healthy is to apply fragrance-free cream or ointment—not lotion—to damp skin after a shower or bath.
    Some people need additional moisturizers for their hands, legs, or other areas prone to dryness.

    While some lotions are made better than others, most are a combination of water and powder that evaporates quickly. Creams and ointments work better because they contain ingredients that can help rebuild your skin barrier. 

    Look for products with ceramide, a fatty acid that helps rebuild the fat and protein barrier that holds your skin cells together. The AAD also recommends moisturizing ingredients such as:

    • Dimethicone
    • Glycerin
    • Jojoba oil
    • Lanolin
    • Mineral oil
    • Petrolatum
    • Shea butter

    For severely dry skin, you can try a “wet wrap” technique:

    1. Rinse a pair of tight-fitting pajamas in warm water and wring them out so they’re damp, not wet.
    2. Apply cream or ointment to your skin.
    3. Put on the damp pajamas, followed by a pair of dry pajamas, and wear the ensemble for several hours.

    Dampness makes your skin more permeable and better able to absorb hydrating products. If the wet wrap or over-the-counter products aren’t working for you, talk with a dermatologist about prescription skin hydration options. 

    Drinking more water isn’t the answer to dry winter skin. The best solution is to apply fragrance-free cream or ointment directly to damp skin. Get more cold weather #SkinCareTips from a dermatologist in this blog: https://bit.ly/3KbVUA1.
    Click to Tweet

     

    5. Don’t confuse skin conditions with dryness.

    Skin conditions are often mistaken for dry skin because peeling or flaking are common symptoms. Redness of the skin or itching in addition to dryness and flaking indicates a skin condition that may need more than an over-the-counter moisturizer.


    Skin cells are anchored together by a lipid and protein layer (like a brick and mortar wall). With very dry skin, the seal on this wall or barrier is not fully intact and water evaporates out of the skin’s surface. The skin will become itchy and red in addition to scaly or flaky. If you experience these symptoms, visit with a dermatologist.

    6. Don’t wait for symptoms to take care of dry skin.

    Be proactive—the best way to maintain moisture is to apply hydrating creams and ointments directly to your skin on a regular basis. Start by applying them as part of your morning routine. Once you get used to that, add a nighttime application. And carry a container of it when you’re on the go or keep it in an easily accessible location at work.

     

    You can’t avoid dry air, but you can take precautions to reduce its harsh effects on your skin. If over-the-counter products don’t seem to help, our dermatologists can provide an individualized treatment plan. Hydrated skin is healthy skin!


    Does your skin get drier as the air gets colder?

    Our dermatologists can help.

    Call 202-877-DOCS (3627) or Request an Appointment

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  • September 05, 2020

    By MedStar Team

    The 2020-2021 influenza season will coincide with the COVID-19 pandemic. This inevitable combination will present unique challenges affecting MedStar Health associates and physicians, as well as the communities we serve. This year, more than ever, compliance with our mandatory influenza (flu) vaccination program is essential to achieving our patient and associate safety priorities.

    As a reminder, all MedStar Health associates, physicians, residents, students, volunteers, contracted staff, and vendors are required to receive the influenza (flu) vaccination. The vaccination period is Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020 through Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020. While flu vaccine clinics will be scheduled at a variety of locations across the system, eligible associates and physicians may also receive their vaccination at Occupational Health offices, unit rounds in high-volume patient care areas, and from peer immunizers. New infection prevention protocols, including appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), frequent disinfection of clipboards, pens and other tools, and physical distancing, will be in place in all flu vaccine clinic locations.

    We will continue to provide the vaccine at MedStar Health entities free of cost for associates, physicians, residents, and volunteers. Locations, dates and times for entity clinics will be posted on StarPort (starport.medstar.net/go/EveryoneCounts) by Sept. 14, 2020. If individuals choose to be vaccinated at non-MedStar facilities or a MedStar Health Urgent Care location, they must complete and submit official documentation to Occupational Health (letterhead, prescription form, printed receipt, etc.) from the provider administering the vaccine. Documentation must include:

    • Associate's name
    • Date of vaccination
    • Name, dose and lot number of vaccine
    • Name, address and phone number of provider

    We recognize that a small percentage of individuals may not be able to receive the flu vaccination due to medical contra-indications and/or religious exemptions. The Influenza Vaccine Exemption Form will need to be obtained from, completed and returned to Occupational Health by Oct. 31, 2020.

    While the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced it will not require the typical vaccine compliance data reporting this year, MedStar Health will continue to require all associates, physicians, residents/fellows, volunteers, students, contracted staff, and vendors to receive a flu vaccine before the end of the vaccination period or document exemption by the deadline.

    Please share this information with your appropriate stakeholders as a priority topic at town hall meetings, staff meetings, rounds, and other communication touch points.

    By collectively vaccinating ourselves against influenza, we enhance patient and associate safety across our organization and communities. Remember, an individual with no flu symptoms may still be a carrier and unknowingly spread it to patients, coworkers, visitors, and family members.

    Thank you for your commitment to patient and associate safety through flu vaccination.

  • September 05, 2020

    By MedStar Team

    Researchers at MedStar Health sought to assess failure rate, outcomes, and patient satisfaction in patients who underwent anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) repair with suture augmentation for clinical instability and proximal avulsion of the ACL. ACL avulsion fractures have a high incidence in most injuries around the knee joint. Improved surgical technology, rehabilitation principles, and minimally invasive surgical techniques have led to renewed interest in primary ACL repair.

    “Anterior Cruciate Ligament Repair with Suture Augmentation for Proximal Avulsion Injuries” was recently published in Arthroscopy, Sports Medicine, and Rehabilitation. The research team retrospectively reviewed suture-augmented ACL repairs performed by a single surgeon between January 2014 and June 2016 for proximal ACL avulsion. Patients were followed in the office until they were released to return to unrestricted activity. All patients were contacted by phone to collect data such as recurrent clinical instability, number of reoperations, reason for reoperation, and return to sport or previous activity level. An automated database was used to collect functional and clinical outcomes scores. 

    The team hypothesized they would find significantly improved functional outcome and a high percentage of patients who exceeded the minimum clinically important difference (MCID) and patient acceptable symptom state (PASS) threshold for ACL surgery. The PASS threshold for Knee Injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score (KOOS) components in patients who underwent ACL reconstruction has been reported as pain, 88.9%; symptoms, 57.1%; activities of daily living (ADL), 100%; sport/recreation, 75%; and quality of life (QoL), 62.5%.

    Of 172 patients who underwent ACL surgery during the study period, 28 (16%) underwent ACL repair with suture augmentation. One patient was unavailable for follow-up.   Of these 27 patients, 17 were diagnosed with Sherman type I tear and 10 were diagnosed with Sherman type II tear. All 27 patients available for follow-up had post-operative scores, and 14 patients had preoperative scores. Of the 27 patients, 4 recurrent ACL injuries required revision to reconstruction. The remaining 23 patients had successful ACL repair with no clinical instability and no subjective complaints at final follow-up. The results include 11 patients with baseline data, demonstrating significant improvements in KOOS score and final follow-up score in relation to the MCID for that instrument: pain (73%), symptoms (100%), ADL (64%), sport and recreation (80%), and quality of life (45%).

    The research concludes that patients with proximal ACL avulsion, ACL repair with suture augmentation demonstrated high functional outcome and improved patient-reported outcomes at 2-year follow-up. This procedure shows promise for treating patients with clinical instability from proximal ACL avulsion.

    The study team included Wiemi A. Douoguih, M.D.; Ralph T. Zade, M.D.; Blake M. Bodendorfer, M.D.; Yalda Siddiqui, B.S.; and Andrew E. Lincoln, D.P.H.

  • September 05, 2020

    By MedStar Team

    Research compliance encompasses a wide variety of issues including research billing. Billing compliance ensures all services in a trial are paid for by helping to reduce double billing and preventing billing for services that are not covered by the trial or are not medically necessary for the research subject. Accurate billing in research is a complex and challenging process that requires a diverse group of professionals across MedStar Health to work cohesively and collaboratively with one another. We at the Research Institute seek to ensure that we have an efficient and compliant approach to billing compliance.

    The research coordinators have the most critical step in the clinical research revenue cycle process. Research subject visit tracking directly drives financial management and compliance. This is the first line of defense against erroneous billing. Subject visits must be logged in OnCore within one business day to ensure timely review by the MHRI revenue cycle team for MedStar Health to maintain compliance with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Clinical Trial Policy.

    MHRI strives for efficient, compliant and transparent research billing by providing monthly metrics and encourages internal audits. In FY20, MedStar Health completed two internal research billing compliance audits which were favorable. In addition, Research Operations provides monthly metrics showing corrections made to a subject’s account before a bill is automatically sent to Medicare or a commercial payor. 

    Thank you to the research coordinators and the Research Institute research revenue cycle team for all the hard work you put in daily! Know that it is recognized and greatly appreciated.

    If you have any questions about research billing compliance or the process within OnCore, please contact research@medstar.net.

  • September 03, 2020

    By Harvey Green, Vice President & Chief Philanthropy Officer

    Forty years ago, Terry Fox ran his historic Marathon of Hope, covering over 3,000 miles across Canada. For 143 days and despite a partial leg amputation, he ran along highways, through towns and in pouring rain, raising awareness and funds to fight against his bone cancer. Over time, he inspired thousands of runners around the world to follow his journey as warriors in an even bigger battle—the fight against cancer in all its forms.

    Here in the Washington, D.C. area, Terry’s legacy lives on through the annual Race to Beat Cancer. Partnering with the Four Seasons Hotel, Washington D.C., MedStar Washington Hospital Center has proudly participated in the Race to Beat Cancer for the past two decades. Over that time, the nearly $1.7 million raised by our participants has gone to support critical research efforts at our Cancer Institute.

    Last year alone, the Race to Beat Cancer raised over half a million dollars and attracted nearly 800 participants.

    This year, due to COVID-19, the Race to Beat Cancer goes virtual to keep participants safe. This allows us to provide new distance options appealing to an even broader range of runners and walkers. Besides our traditional 5k format, runners and walkers can now choose to complete a 10k or a one-mile option as well!

    Before we get into some race details, let’s cover some of the crucial work that race funds make possible.

    Harvey cheering on a young racer at the 2019 Race to Beat Cancer.
    This photo was taken prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The Sobering Facts

    It’s an unfortunate fact that Washington, D.C. has one of the highest cancer incidents and mortality rates in the United States. According to Dr. Christopher Gallagher, Medical Director of Cancer Services at the Hospital Center, as D.C.’s largest outpatient cancer center, we treat the most cancer cases in the region. Each year, we diagnose and treat over 2000 people with new cancer and manage more than 80,000 outpatient visits for cancer screening, cancer treatments, and cancer survivorship care. In addition, we enroll several hundred patients in a cancer research trial.

    With so much essential and ground-breaking work to be done, the Race to Beat Cancer has become a very significant lifeline to raise much-needed funds to support our cancer research.

    Currently, there are about 40 clinical trials open and underway that focus on investigating new and better treatments for many different cancer types.

    As an important point of emphasis, about 70% of the patients enrolled in our trials come from our minority populations. Approximately 18% of black women with newly diagnosed breast cancer are enrolled in a therapeutic clinical trial, many times higher than the national average and the leaders in the greater D.C. region for this type of work.

    Quite frankly, minority populations tend to be underrepresented in general by traditional cancer research efforts. It’s important that the community understands the unique work we’re doing at the Hospital Center, emphasizing cutting-edge and next-generation care that serves our prime demographic here in the greater D.C. region.

    In this time of heightened social awareness, we are proud to be a national model and leader in offering innovative cancer care to minority patients.

    MedStar Washington Hospital Center is proud to be a national leader and model for minority cancer care. Join our virtual Race to Beat Cancer and help support the cause! https://bit.ly/2YQa6ZA #BeatCancer @MedStarWHC @harveyg3

    Click to Tweet


    While funds raised by our annual race primarily support cancer research, we are supporting an additional cause this year that will resonate with everyone: a convalescent plasma research program for COVID-19 patients. Our physician investigators are major contributors to one of the largest convalescent plasma programs in the country, studying the use of plasma antibodies from dozens of recovered COVID-19 patient donors to treat our most vulnerable and severely ill COVID-19 patients.

    Read more about the causes supported by the race and your fundraising efforts.

    Details on Our New Virtual Race

    Now, let’s get to some race details!

    This year’s entirely virtual Race to Beat Cancer is open for registration now! You can complete your run or walk at any time during race week September 26–October 3.

    Enjoy teaming with others? Virtual team participation is highly encouraged. Teams have already started forming, and of course, we have a team led annually by Dr. Gallagher!

    Once registered, you will receive instructions on apps available to track your times and how to input this information into the website. Leading fundraisers will receive prizes, and top-placing runners will receive cash awards. Have fun with social media to promote the race. Tag @racetobeatcancer5K on Instagram and like us on Facebook at Race to Beat Cancer and use the hashtag #MyRace2BeatCancer.

    To register or learn more, please visit:

    Racing’s not your thing? You can help the cause in a number of other ways. Make a tax-deductible contribution by visiting RaceToBeatCancer5K.com and clicking the Donate tab. Or email Harvey.Green@medstar.net and become a sponsor!

    On Your Mark, Get Set…

    As one of the largest hospitals in this area, MedStar Washington Hospital Center has a strong reach across the region. Several local philanthropists and sponsors of the Hospital Center wholeheartedly support the Race to Beat Cancer, and many provide fund-matching as well. And of course, our Hospital Center family enthusiastically participates in race activities and fund-raising every year.

    Ready to help us beat cancer? Lace up those sneakers, and let’s go!


     

    Join us virtually for the Race to Beat Cancer!

    Register today!

  • September 02, 2020

    By Manu Kaushal, MD, FCCP, Medical Director of Critical Care and Medical Director of Pulmonary Rehabilitation at Medstar Montgomery Medical Center

    Most stay-at-home orders have lifted and many people are trying to resume normal life as much as possible. We know that wearing a face mask and socially distancing ourselves from others can help to limit the spread of COVID-19. But, it’s not always clear which activities carry a higher risk of exposure, especially as COVID-19 cases continue rising. By understanding the environment you’ll be in and who you’ll be around, you can weigh your risks carefully.

    How to decide what activities are safe.

    Every situation is different but some activities are riskier than others. Here are five things you should consider when deciding whether or not it’s a good idea to participate in certain activities.

    How do you decide which social activities are safe? On the #LiveWellHealthy blog, Dr. Kaushal shares 5 things to consider as you weigh the risks of getting out and about during #COVID19: https://bit.ly/31RD3X3.

    Click to Tweet

    1. Check the COVID-19 status in your community.

    Find out if your community is experiencing widespread infection rates. Generally, if the positivity rate is less than 5%, it’s relatively safer to leave your home to participate in low-to-moderate risk activities. If your community infection positivity rate is greater than 5%, it’s a good idea to remain at home until the numbers decline.

    2. Choose outdoor activities over indoor gatherings.

    Outside activities are safer than indoor gatherings for a variety of reasons. Ventilation and airflow are better outside, and being outdoors makes it easier to remain six feet apart from those who are nearby. Indoor settings are often confined spaces that require you to be near others, which means the risk of spread is higher.

    For example, going on a hike with your family is low-risk because you won’t come into contact with many people and there’s plenty of space to maintain social distancing. In contrast, an indoor concert offers seating close to others with little to no airflow, making it a higher-risk activity. In either case, it’s important to wear a face mask if you’re going to be with people who are outside of your household and within six feet.

    An exception to the rule.

    When you need medical care, it’s safe to visit the doctor’s office or emergency room. Hospitals and health clinics are taking extraordinary measures to isolate infected patients from others, and it’s important not to delay care that could worsen if left untreated. From staggered appointment slots to physically distanced floor markers, we’re prioritizing your health and safety in new ways that ensure we still offer the same high-quality care you expect.

    When you can’t avoid schools and daycares.

    Daycares, offices, and schools are taking extra precautions to facilitate screening and safer seating arrangements. Cohorting is one strategy schools are taking to minimize the spread of COVID-19 between students. Cohorts are small groups that remain together throughout the day but have limited interaction with other groups.

    If you haven’t already, ask your child’s school the following questions to determine whether or not it’s safe to send your child:

    • Are you screening students and staff upon arrival?
    • What is the strategy to isolate someone who is infected and prevent others from getting sick?
    • How will you communicate outbreaks to families?
    • Will children need to wear face masks? Will the school provide masks?

    It’s important to make sure your kids are up-to-date on necessary vaccinations. And, if your child is sick or shows symptoms of COVID-19, keep them home.

    3. Minimize the time you spend interacting with others.

    The longer you spend around others in public settings, the higher your risk of being exposed to COVID-19. Whether you’re thinking about going to town to run errands or visiting the barber for a haircut, try to find ways to minimize the amount of time you’ll be close to others. While it’s generally good etiquette to arrive at appointments early, whether it’s for a nail appointment or doctor visit, consider waiting in your car until they’re ready for you.

    4. Consider who you’ll be interacting with.

    When you’re deciding whether or not to participate in a social activity, think about whether or not you can control who you’re going to be around. If you’re going to be with a small group of family members who you know haven’t recently traveled or shown symptoms of COVID-19, then the risk of infecting someone or being infected is lower than if you’re around a large group of people who you do not know.

    5. Understand your risk factors.

    If you or someone in your household is 65 or older, or has a pre-existing condition that increases their risk of complications from COVID-19, it’s better to limit your activities to those with a low-risk. Chronic conditions that increase your risk include:

    • Asthma
    • Body mass index (BMI) above 30
    • COPD
    • Coronary disease
    • Diabetes
    • High blood pressure
    • Weakened immune system (e.g. cancer patients)

    Assessing your risks on a spectrum.

    Your personal risk may be different than someone else’s risk, depending on your age, health condition, and community infection rates. So, you’ll need to use your best judgment to determine which activities are safe for you and which activities you should probably avoid.

    In general, the more people you’re around for a longer period of time, the greater your risk. And, whether or not the people around you are following safety precautions affects your risk, too. You have to determine the level of risk you’re comfortable with based on the factors you can and cannot control within the environment.

    Ranking social activities by risk.

    Low Risk

    • Doctor’s office
    • Camping
    • Visiting a secluded beach
    • Walking or running
    • Drive-in-theater
    • Non-contact sports (e.g. tennis)

    Moderate Risk

    • Eating outdoors at a restaurant
    • Swimming in a public pool
    • Attending a small BBQ with family
    • Getting a haircut at the salon

    High Risk

    • Gyms
    • Music festivals
    • Sports stadiums
    • Contact sports (e.g. basketball)
    • Playgrounds
    • Eating indoors at a restaurant
    • Public transportation

    Continue following safety precautions.

    There’s risk involved with any activity in a public setting, so in all cases, take the proper precautions to maintain social distancing, wear a face mask, and wash your hands regularly.

    And if you need medical care, don’t hesitate. We’re here for you in-person and online, whenever and however you need us.

    Need care now or want to learn more about COVID-19?
    Click below for more information.

    MedStar Montgomery Medical Center Emergency Services

    COVID-19 Information

  • September 01, 2020

    By Victoria Lai, MD, MS, FACS, Endocrine Surgery

    Of the prevalent diseases affecting patients today, we know that cancer is the deadliest. But thyroid cancer is a type of cancer that can be treated quite successfully—and it has a very high survival rate with treatment, as high as 97%.

    Let’s look at some common questions concerning cancer of the thyroid gland:

    What is thyroid cancer?

    The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in your neck. It’s responsible for many vital functions in your body, including regulating the body’s metabolic rate controlling heart, muscle and digestive function, brain development and bone maintenance. Thyroid cancer is related to abnormal cells in the thyroid gland that come from thyroid nodules.

    Thyroid cancer affects more than 50,000 Americans each year—particularly women—and its incidence has risen over the last decade. It’s currently the fifth most common cancer in women (the second most common for women ages 30–39), and this year it is expected to be the most commonly diagnosed cancer in patients ages 15–29.

    Who has the highest risk?

    Although the causes of this disease are largely unknown, people with certain hereditary syndromes are at higher risk. Also, people who’ve had radiation therapy or treatment to the head and neck region—say, to treat lymphoma—may also be at risk to develop this illness. But that’s a very small percentage of the affected population.

    What are the typical symptoms?

    Thyroid cancer can affect men and women of all ages and the vast majority of people have no symptoms. The most common symptom, if someone has a symptom at all, is feeling a thyroid nodule—a mass inside the thyroid gland—that’s picked up coincidentally while the patient is undergoing tests for something else. At other times, people happen to feel a bump in their neck, which calls for imaging or a fine needle aspiration known as a biopsy.

    Painless neck bumps may be benign or they may represent cancer. So it’s important to have them evaluated to help determine what they may be, and if a biopsy is needed, says Dr. Victoria Lai. https://bit.ly/2EOkg5F via @MedStarWHC.

    Click to Tweet


    How is it diagnosed?

    Thyroid cancer is usually diagnosed after a needle biopsy—a fine needle aspiration—is performed on a thyroid nodule. The nodule may have been found on an ultrasound or an imaging study, done either because a patient or their provider noticed swelling in the neck area, or sometimes because the imaging study was done for another reason and a thyroid nodule happened to be found.

    Currently, we don’t advise routine thyroid screenings, as we do for breast or colon cancer. However, for patients who know their family has a specific predisposition such as the MEN2A genetic disorder, we may suggest a screening. Otherwise, it’s not generally recommended.

    What is the typical treatment?

    There are many different types of thyroid cancer, and we consider each case individually. For the most common types, the first line of treatment is surgery to remove the thyroid gland. In other cases, perhaps only half the gland is removed. We may choose to remove lymph nodes as well. If someone undergoes removal of their entire thyroid gland, supplemental thyroid hormone is an important part of the treatment arm. We may recommend something called radioactive iodine for selected patients who are at higher risk of having the thyroid cancer come back.

    What are the success rate and long-term effects after surgery?

    Patients tend to do very well post-treatment, although everyone’s recovery experience is a little different. With a survival rate of 95%–97%, it has essentially no impact on someone’s life span for the vast majority of patients.

    In most cases, there are no long-term effects from the surgery. If the entire thyroid is removed, you will take thyroid hormone for the rest of your life. We work closely with endocrinologists to adjust dosage levels to suit your physiology.

    Are there any potential complications?

    Complications from surgery are low but not zero. We consider all risks before surgery, work hard to reduce those risks, and monitor for them after surgery. There could be a risk of infection, bleeding, or damage to the nerves that control voice and breathing, which occurs in 1%–2% of cases. There’s also a risk to the parathyroid glands, which control calcium metabolism, and the likelihood of needing long-term calcium supplementation is about 5%.

    In a small percentage of cases with more aggressive sub-types of the illness, treatment and recovery may take a while longer.

    At the Hospital Center, we make it our mission to follow up with our patients and monitor them long-term for any possible recurrence. This is done in concert with their endocrinologists, and we use a combination of physical exams, laboratory studies, and imaging studies.

    What is the recovery process?

    A typical recovery process depends in part on how extensive the surgery is. For some, it may be an outpatient surgery; for others, an overnight stay. In the U.S., the most common duration is a 23-hour observation period, after which you are released.

    Most people find that the worst of any postoperative discomfort occurs in the first 24 hours after surgery, and improves after that. From the beginning, we ask patients to walk around if they are steady on their feet and to resume normal food shortly after surgery. For most people, most of the effects of general anesthesia wear off within the first two weeks.

    The surgery’s high success rate, and patients’ typical quick recuperation, have given hope to many, including well-known figures like actress Sofia Vergara and musician Rod Stewart.

    If you notice a painless bump in your neck, reach out to us. And if you are diagnosed with thyroid cancer, our team is here to diagnose, treat, and help you through a speedy recovery.

    LISTEN: Dr. Lai discusses thyroid cancer in the Medical Intel podcast.


    Feeling a neck bump?

    Consult with one of our specialists.

    Call 202-644-9526 or  Request an Appointment