State Rep. Steve Santarsiero last week presented Lower Makefield Township resident and thyroid cancer survivor Julie Bealuk with an honorary copy of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives resolution declaring September 2012 as “Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month.”
Bealuk, a 41-year-old mother of two, was diagnosed with stage II papillary and follicular thyroid cancer at 29, just weeks after giving birth to her youngest daughter.
“At the time I had never heard of thyroid cancer and had no idea how much of an important role the thyroid has in our bodies,” Bealuk said. “I have since learned that so many women in our area have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer – most recently a friend’s 17-year-old niece. This most recent diagnosis has been what has spurred me on to find out the cause.”
Thyroid cancer can occur in all age groups and both men and women, according to a press release from Rep. Santarsiero ‘s office. It is estimated that 56,000 cases of thyroid cancer will be detected in 2012, according to the release. Three out of four of those cases will be diagnosed in women.
"It's important for everyone – especially women – to check their neck every month for any changes or lumps," said Bealuk, who also has worked for 20 years supporting people with autism. "Something as simple as making sure your neck is protected during dental or other X-rays can also help prevent this cancer."
Bealuk underwent two surgeries to remove both sides of her thyroid and began radioactive iodine treatment at the end of September 2001. Like all thyroid cancer survivors, she must be on a supplemental thyroid hormone for life.
Although the exact cause of thyroid cancer is not known, risk factors include heredity, a diet low in iodine and exposure to radiation, such as what is found in some medical procedures and tests. Like many forms of cancer, early detection is paramount in making a full recovery.
“I cannot stress enough the importance of screenings, education and overall awareness in the fight to detect this form of cancer before it can cause more harm,” Santarsiero said. “Advances in technology are helping doctors spot this deadly disease earlier, and I’m honored to draw attention to the efforts of health care professionals across Pennsylvania who are making that happen.”
Pennsylvania ranked number one in occurrence of the cancer from 2001 to 2005. Bucks County ranked among the top 18 counties nationwide for the highest incidence during the same time period, according to Rep. Santarsiero’s office.