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Sluggish Thyroid


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Dear Oncodoc,

I was just today told by my general doctor that after doing blood test on me yesterday he thinks I have a "sluggish thyroid" which accounts for my terrible fatigue, depression, feeling cold, etc. I have also gained a considerable amount of weight since recovering from sclc treatments (about 30 lbs since November 02.) The weight gain I do in part attribute to laziness, but when you're so tired, it's so hard to exercise after you've worked all day. All I do is sit on the couch and veg! And food seems to be my comfort when i'm depressed. Now my questions:

What causes this condition - is it possible that radiation treatment could destroy my thyroid, thereby giving me this problem? I know there are many down the road side effects from both chemo and radiation (i had carboplatin and etoposide).

Wouldn't this problem have showed up on the blood tests I routinely get at the oncologists office, or is this a test that wouldn't be routinely run at an oncology visit? I have been mentioning being tired and somewhat depressed to the oncologist before, but he seemed to chalk it up to all i've been through. In addition to cancer, I lost my only daughter suddently to epilepsy in August 03.

Besides giving me pills to regulate the thyroid, are there dietary restrictions involved with this?

I'd appreciate any input you could give me on this,

Oh, also, are thyroid problems common in cancer patients?

Thanks so much for all you help.


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I would like to add to your question...

My thyroid issue was "discovered" this spring. My thyroid appears to be sluggish, too. I've been tired, feel wimpy, semi-depressed, and gaining weight like a suckling pig. Nothing helps with weight loss and exercise - well, I'm WHIPPED when I get home from work...

My radiation oncologist says there's no way my thyroid is related to my radiation, too far from target (I don't exactly buy that)...

I did not do chemo, but I DID participate in an Iressa trial for two months.

My last set of bloodtests were more extensive, not just TSH but some of the specific thyroid hormones... Well, things ain't linin' up like they're supposed to, my GP sent me to an endocrinologist...

My oncologist sends me to my GP with ANY issue I have, he's just there to take care of the cancer and answer questions regarding that, everything else (including fighting side effects of what he is doing) falls into my GP's lap... She's really good, though - sends me to experts when needed so now I'm with a hormone doctor.

I am waiting for more information from the newest member of my ever-growing medical team, but would welcome some insight if at all possible.



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Hypothyroidism (sluggish thyroid function) is very common, much more so in women than men and affects 2-5% of women. I'm not sure what your radiation fields were but the thyroid is usually shielded so it would be unlikely to be related to that. It would also be unlikely for chemotherapy to have caused this. It can be caused by a number of factors but usually it is an autoimmune process where the thyroid has been injured by your own immune system. I'm not aware of any way that diet will affect this and supplemental thyroid tablets is very effective in fixing the problem.

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