Richmond, VA--Dancing with the Stars' Brooke Burke-Charvet is a thyroid cancer survivor.
The host of the hit show recently had to make a life changing decision that thousands of women in America are facing— whether to treat the cancer, or simply leave it alone.
Burke-Charvet underwent surgery, but some doctors now say the best treatment might be no treatment at all.
"I went for a regular physical and that's how I discovered this," said Brooke Burke-Charvet of her cancer diagnosis.
Thyroid cancer is cancer of the thyroid gland, a tiny butterfly shaped gland located in your neck. The cancer usual presents with symptoms like trouble swallowing, changes in your voice and discovering a lump in your throat.
Research shows the cancer is on the rise, increasing by some 6-percent each year. The cancer mostly targets women under the age of 55.
But what do you do if diagnosed? There's currently a raging debate, with some medical professionals arguing you should leave the cancer along, rather than treating it.
"I need to have thyroid surgery and a thyroidectomy, which means that I'm gonna have a nice, big scar right here across my neck," said Burke-Charvet, who opted to undergo treatment for her cancer.
But, many women are choosing to let the disease go untreated.
"It's very controversial," Dr. Amy Grover, a surgical oncologist at VCU's Massey Cancer Center, said about whether patients decide to forego treatment.
Grover said it's been an ongoing argument for years among doctors, largely because there's a risk to treating thyroid cancer.
"There are risks with any treatment—risks that can damage a person's voice; it can damage your way of taste," said Dr. Grover.
Grover said when a patient has their thyroid glad removed, they'll need to take hormones pills every day for the rest of their life.
But Grover notes there's also major risks associated with not treating the cancer.
"We don't know when it will spread," said Grover. "We don't know when it will be a problem; we don't have good tests to tell us if it's somewhere else."
Though there are risks and benefits to both sides of the arguments Dr. Grover said the hardest part is the emotional burden, especially among young women, because if left untreated they know every day there is cancer inside of them.
"I think most woman that planned a family, they want to see those kids grow up and have a healthy life themselves, and to think that something can stop you from doing that is incredibly difficult," said Dr. Grover.
Deciding whether or not to undergo treatment is a difficult decision that a close member of Dr. Grover's family is facing right now.
At the end of the day, Dr. Grover said she believes treatment may be the best option.
"I tiink it is individualized, but for most people that are healthy, that they should go forward with treatment with surgery," Dr. Grover said.
Regardless if you decide to treat it or leave it alone, all doctors agree that every case is different, and, at the very least, you should consult a medical professional.
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