10% of thyroid tumors occur in men - here's why you have to catch it fast

Yossi Haddad was hoarse for months. When the reason for this was discovered, it changed his life.

 Yossi Haddad and Dr. Nir Hirshoren (photo credit: HADASSAH SPOKESPERSON)
Yossi Haddad and Dr. Nir Hirshoren

We often tend to ignore strange symptoms and convince ourselves that everything is fine. This is what happened with Yossi Haddad, who thought that his hoarseness was just a stubborn cold. Luckily, when he decided to treat this annoying symptom, he arrived on time to Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital, where they treated the malignancy that had spread throughout his body, and helped him embark on a new path.

Yossi Hadad, 53, noticed one morning that he was very hoarse. Although he was sure it was from a cold and would go away, he remained hoarse for weeks. 

"Because the hoarseness didn't go away, I went to a local ear-nose-and-throat doctor to be checked, but nothing unusual was found, and about a week later, the hoarseness disappeared," Haddad said. 

Two months later the hoarseness returned, but this time it didn’t go away. 

"Time passed and I was still hoarse. A few weeks later I realized that something was strange, as I was still hoarse, and I went again to a doctor who noticed that my vocal cords were partially paralyzed and immediately sent me for an MRI, which revealed a mass,” he said.

Haddad was sent for an urgent biopsy in which it turned out to be a malignant tumor, "and really at that moment my life was turned upside down."

Hadad was immediately sent for treatment to Dr. Nir Hirshoren, a senior head and neck surgeon from Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital. 

"Yossi arrived at the clinic for ENT problems and head tumors complaining about a neck lump and intermittent hoarseness," said Hirshoren. "It’s true that he was relatively young and didn’t have risk factors, and yet important warning signs came up that became clear after extensive testing that this tumor in the thyroid gland had spread to the lymph nodes and nearby organs.”

Although thyroid tumors are more common in women, 10% of cases occur in men and an early diagnosis is crucial. This is the most common endocrine tumor and is usually more aggressive in men, so treatment needs to be intensive. In Haddad’s case, the hoarseness that didn’t go away was the first sign, and then neck lumps were found.

"Shortly after Yossi came to me, he had already undergone surgery to remove the tumor and surrounding lymph nodes which were affected. The tumor was at a relatively advanced stage, and despite the complexity of the surgery we were able to remove the entire tumor completely and restore damaged tissue,” said Hirshoren.

Determining a new route

The cancer that came unexpectedly and the complex surgery was a wake-up call for Haddad, and after the prolonged recovery he decided to change his lifestyle. "After the operation, Yossi received complementary oncological treatment and I’m very happy to say that he is disease free," said Hirshoren. He added that to his delight, during the treatments and especially after recovery, Yossi decided to change his life. Among other things, he started physical activity that includes long runs, and they got to run together as a winning team.

"I wasn’t an athlete and was quite heavy," says Haddad. "There was no clear reason for the tumor to appear in me but I was diabetic and overweight. So I decided to lose weight and work out and it happened very quickly after the surgery.” Haddad added that after radioactive iodine treatment he was in isolation for a week at Hadassah Hospital. There, he started exercising. Inside the room he walked about 13,000 steps a day and then started taking walks and running outside, with the approval and encouragement of Hirshoren.

"During Yossi's visits to the clinic, the thought of running together came up several times," Hirshoren said. "I run by myself, and as Yossi got stronger and started to gain distance, the connection sounded great. 

“Although coronavirus changed our plans, an opportunity was created for a joint run at the initiative and organization of the Israeli Society for Head and Neck Oncology and Surgery,” he continued.

They hosted a sporting event for doctors who treat head and neck tumors such as surgeons and oncologists in this field, in collaboration with the Israel Cancer Association and the Israeli Society of Otolaryngology.

The event’s purpose was to raise awareness and importance of an early examination of a changing skin lesion, transient hoarseness, a wound that doesn’t heal and the appearance of a neck lump. Also avoid risk factors and especially smoking and uncontrolled exposure to the sun. 

"When I asked Yossi to participate in the event, he jumped at the chance, and put in a lot of effort. His participation is a real message to patients who can overcome tumor diseases in the neck and to the treatment team that fights day and night for them and is happy to see their recovery," Hirshoren concluded proudly.