Here’s why you should care for your thyroid

Caring for one’s thyroid is good for optimal health. Unknown to many, thyroid disorders are becoming more and more prevalent in the Philippines.

According to Dr. Nemencio Nicodemus Jr., president of the Philippine Thyroid Association, common thyroid diseases such as goiter have been affecting mostly women, and that cases among Filipinas have been on the rise since 1993.

“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,” he said during the recently held online event dubbed “Thyroid Care: Walking The Healthy Path.”

A study by the World Health Organization (WHO)’s International Agency for Research on Cancer also revealed that in 2020 alone, thyroid cancer is the number 7 most common cancer in the Philippines, next to cervical cancer. However, the former is the least most common cause of cancer deaths, ranking at number 21.

In the same event organized by leading global pharmaceutical company Merck, Dr. Adrian Fernando, head of the Head & Neck Unit of the Benavides Cancer Institute in UST Hospital, said the rise in thyroid cancer cases is mainly attributed to genetics, unhealthy lifestyle, and advancements in disease detection. 

He claims Filipinos are predisposed to thyroid cancer due to our genetic make-up. “Genetics play an important role in thyroid cancer development. As Filipinos, we need to increase public awareness, invest in improved cancer registry, and adopt our own management guidelines,” Fernando suggested.

The good news is most thyroid disorders are treatable especially if detected early.

The thyroid gland is a small but powerful organ that plays an important role in bodily processes such as metabolism, heart rate, and digestion, among others. It basically produces two important hormones, T3 and T4 that regulate vital bodily functions in coordination with other organs.

Among the most common preventive measures against thyroid diseases are routine head and neck examinations and ultrasound of the thyroid. This detects early on lumps and nodules that can lead to cancer. Another important intervention is to conduct a blood test specifically to detect abnormal amounts of T4 and T3 hormones. 

Merck has been doing its lion’s share of treating and preventing thyroid disorders worldwide by coming up with fact-based, scientific education programs and media forums, while constantly improving their medicines 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,” said Henry Wilson, president and managing director of Healthcare of Merck in the Philippines. 

Pressed by media on what steps to take to have a healthy thyroid gland, Dr. Nicodemus advised the public to live a healthy lifestyle, make sure to have an ideal intake of iodine through seafood and dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese, and limit exposure to radiation. Iodine is the main component in producing thyroid hormones.

Merck medical director Dr. Raymond Tapang said to continually come up with more informative media symposiums like this to educate the public on the proper care of their thyroid to prevent diseases.

“Events like this aim to dispense medically sound treatment and solutions to best manage thyroid-related medical conditions. We need public discussions like this to dispel rumors, myths, and fake news on thyroid care that proliferate on the internet,” said Dr. Tapang.

Merck has come up with a Facebook page called Unmasking Your Thyroid to inform the public about proper thyroid healthcare. There are other good resource websites for thyroid care such as Thyroid.ph and Thyroidaware.com that have thyroid symptom checkers.

As a parting shot, Wilson said the best option still if you feel there is something wrong with your thyroid is to seek professional, medical advice immediately. “Nothing beats that!”

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