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Celebrities Help Raising Awareness for Thyroid Cancer

Posted by Manuela Boyle on 12 February 2022
Celebrities Help Raising Awareness for Thyroid Cancer

Over the past few years, several celebrities have come forward to discuss their diagnoses and treatment for thyroid cancer, most recently South Korean actress, Park So-dam, one of the lead actors in the Oscar-winning film Parasite. Park was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer in late 2021, and she publicly shared her diagnosis in an official statement put out by her professional representation. She regularly posts to her social media accounts to update her fans on her progress and provide reassurances about her health.

She is not the only celebrity who has been public about their thyroid cancer diagnosis. Sofia Vergara, well-known for her role on the sitcom Modern Family, first spoke publicly about her diagnosis in an article for Health in 2011. At that time, she commented she did not want any attention around her diagnosis until she had completed her initial surgery and radioactive iodine ablation. Vergara credited early detection for helping her achieve remission. "I was fortunate to have caught it early and to have the support of my doctors and most importantly, my family," Vergara said during a Stand Up To Cancer event in 2021. "I learned a lot during that time, not just about thyroid cancer but I also learned that in times of crisis, we're better together and if we're going to end cancer, it's going to require a team effort." Both actors noted that their thyroid nodules were found on physical examination.

Conversely, in 2017, Shark Tank's Daymond John spoke about his thyroid cancer diagnosis which was made during an "executive physical." In an article in People, he noted, "I just want to share my story to empower people to take control of their health. This is something we all have to be diligent about." Whether thyroid enlargement was noted on physical examination or screening ultrasound is unclear.

Do these public announcements help raise awareness or create an outsize fear of diagnosis of thyroid cancer?

Raising Awareness About Thyroid Cancer
Although most thyroid cancer outcomes are favourable, maintaining awareness of thyroid disease remains important. Approximately 44,280 adults (12,150 men and 32,130 women) were diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2021, with the lifetime risk of developing thyroid cancer being 1.2%, according to the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results thyroid cancer database. Thyroid cancer is the seventh most common cancer diagnosed in women and accounts for 2.3% of all cancer diagnoses. Localised, well-differentiated thyroid cancer is associated with a 5-year survival rate of almost 100%. The 5-year survival rate for regional papillary thyroid cancer is 99% and decreases to 50% for more advanced cancers.

While most patients are unable to access an "executive physical" such as John's, this publicity does raise concerns in the realm of health equity in medical care. Asymptomatic patients without significant risk factors (ie. childhood exposure to head and neck irradiation, inherited genetic syndrome associated with thyroid cancer, or a first-degree relative with thyroid cancer) should be encouraged to have annual physical examinations with their primary physician and referral for imaging if thyroid enlargement, nodules, or lymph nodes are noted.


Author:Manuela Boyle
Tags:NewsResourcesPrevention & RecoveryCancerThyroid Cancer


  • The Institute for Functional Medicine
  • Society for Integrative Oncology
  • Naturopaths and Herbalists Association of Australia
  • Australian Traditional-Medicine Society
  • British Naturopathic Association