A Specialized Approach to Thyroid Problems

The best care for the estimated 20 million Americans with thyroid issues requires dedicated specialists who understand the complexities of the thyroid, the hormone-producing gland that influences every cell in the body.

To answer that need, the Hoag Thyroid Program was developed and recently launched. It is a comprehensive program to diagnose, treat and manage thyroid disease and thyroid cancer. With surgical, non-surgical and oncological thyroid specialists, Hoag is providing the multidisciplinary approach to thyroid issues that Orange County has been waiting for.

“There is a huge need in the community for someone who understands this intricate gland,” says Sandra Kwak, M.D., director of the Hoag Thyroid Program. “I hear the same story every day. ‘I’m getting treated but I don’t feel well.’ That’s where the art and science of medicine need to come together.”

“It’s not enough for the blood hormone levels to be normal; the patient needs to feel better, too,” she continues. “There are subtle nuances to thyroid management that an endocrinologist can better address. If you just go by lab results, a robot could treat your thyroid disease, but that doesn’t help the patient.”

Hoag’s Thyroid Program offers diagnosis and treatment for all thyroid issues, including thyroid cancer; hypothyroidism, in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone; and hyperthyroidism, in which the gland produces too much thyroid hormone.

Many medical providers may offer treatments to replace thyroid hormone, but feel at a loss when a patient describes ongoing issues with fatigue, weight gain, hair loss or other symptoms. An endocrinologist understands how to fine-tune treatment to improve overall health, and these are the types of patients who should be referred to a specialist.

The Hoag Thyroid Program includes subspecialized surgeons, radiologists, radiation oncologists, nuclear medicine specialists, oncologists, pathologists, geneticists, a nurse navigator and endocrinologists. Hoag has invested in advanced imaging equipment and genetic testing to ensure that each patient undergoes the most effective treatment.

“The general consensus is that thyroid cancer is being over-diagnosed,” Dr. Kwak says. “We are avoiding unnecessary surgeries through accurate risk assessment and diagnosis, which is aided by state-of-the-art imaging and genetic testing.”

For patients who do require surgery, Hoag offers an experienced team, including thyroid/parathyroid surgeon Colleen Coleman, M.D., and the recently recruited Michael Demeure, M.D., a fellowship-trained endocrine surgeon and past-president of the American Association of Endocrine Surgeons.

The multidisciplinary team meets monthly to discuss complicated cases to reach a consensus on optimal medical management.

“Patients can live with thyroid disease and have a normal life,” says Dr. Kwak. “You don’t have to have fatigue, weight gain and hair loss. There are specialists here to help.”

To learn more about the Hoag Thyroid Program, visit hoag.org/thyroid.