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Photo by: Gage Skidmore (cc-by-sa-2.0)

Former White House senior adviser Jared Kushner recently revealed he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. In his new book, “Breaking History: A White House Memoir,” Kushner wrote that he underwent treatment during his time working for his father-in-law, former President Donald Trump.

“On the morning that I traveled to Texas to attend the opening of a Louis Vuitton factory, White House physician Sean Conley pulled me into the medical cabin on Air Force One,” the 41-year-old Kushner wrote. “ ‘Your test results came back from Walter Reed,’ he said. ‘It looks like you have cancer. We need to schedule a surgery right away.’ ”

According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 44,000 Americans will be diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2022. Women are nearly three times more likely to be diagnosed than men.

“The most common type of thyroid cancer, papillary thyroid cancer, usually presents as a painless lump in the neck or can be found accidentally on imaging for another problem,” said Dr. Caitlin McMullen, a surgeon in the Department of Head & Neck-Endocrine Oncology at Moffitt Cancer Center. “Fortunately, papillary thyroid cancer has a very good prognosis. Most patients are successfully treated with surgery alone.”

Fortunately, papillary thyroid cancer has a very good prognosis. Most patients are successfully treated with surgery alone.
Dr. Caitlin McMullen, Head and Neck Oncology Program

Kushner said the cancer was caught early, but he required surgery to remove a substantial part of his thyroid, adding that he was warned about potentially suffering long-term damage to his voice.

“For small thyroid cancers, a limited surgery that only removes half of the thyroid can be very effective with few side effects,” said McMullen. “The recurrent laryngeal nerve, a small nerve behind the thyroid, can be injured in thyroid surgery, causing temporary or permanent voice impairment. In the hands of an experienced, high-volume thyroid surgeon, the risk of this complication is very low, less than 1 to 2% usually.”

Temporary or permanent hoarseness or loss of voice is one of the potential complications of thyroid surgery, caused by nerve damage. Additional possible complications include needing thyroid hormone replacement in pill form (about 30% of people) or needing further surgery to remove the rest of the thyroid if the cancer turns out to be worse than expected.

“Fortunately, the risk of nerve damage in this operation is very low,” said McMullen. “Recovery is usually fairly quick, within a matter of days or up to two weeks.”

Kushner added that he kept himself distracted with work so he wouldn’t have to think about surgery or the cancer that was affecting him.

“When I did think about it, I reminded myself that it was in the hands of God and the doctors, and that whatever happened was out of my control,” Kushner said. “At moments, I caught myself wondering whether I would need extensive treatment.”