By Minerva Romero Arenas
The new year brings with it a time to reflect on the past, the present, and the future. Inspired by the writers the past few weeks, I also took the opportunity to reflect on what I have learned during my first few months in fellowship training in surgical endocrinology. What an appropriate time to share some reflections, considering January is thyroid cancer awareness month I chose to focus on my experience with thyroid cancer patients.
I have seen a lot of young patients. Thyroid cancer is on the rise and is now the 8th most common cancer in the US, and the number 1 cancer amongst young women (under age 25). Radiation exposure is one of the most common risk factors, while having family history also plays a role in specific types of thyroid cancer. While symptoms may be attributable to mass effect (“compressive symptoms”), many patients are asymptomatic. Many young women have come in after noticing a lump in their neck during their daily facial care routine, during a routine prenatal visit, or when a loved one noted their neck looked different. While the majority of thyroid cancer is indolent, the big C word is still scary for anyone – especially when treatments starts with undergoing surgery. As one of my faculty mentioned one day, “the majority of cases are not aggressive. But it is a cancer, and we will treat it with the respect it deserves.”
Taking care of so many young female patients – some of whom are my age or younger – has already had an impact on me. I am inspired by their courage, the trust they place in our surgical team, and their determination to simply “do well.” I find that taking care of these patients actually given me inspiration. They make me want to be the best doctor and surgeon I can be. Why? Because my best work will mean that they can get back to their regular life more quickly – some want to continue to sing in their church choir, others just want to get back to work, others need to be able to take care of their families (yes, yelling at the kids included).
Thus, I am thankful. Thankful for the privilege to participate in their care. Thankful for the opportunity to learn from them. Thankful for their trust during one of the most stressful and vulnerable events in patients’ lives – thankful to be a surgeon.
Minerva A. Romero Arenas is a Fellow in Surgical Endocrinology at The UT MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX. She completed her General Surgery Residency at Sinai Hospital of Baltimore. She received her MD and her MPH from The University of Arizona College of Medicine and the Zuckerman College of Public Health in 2009. She studied Cell Biology and French at Arizona State University as an undergraduate.
Her interests include surgical oncology & endocrinology, global health, health disparities, quality improvement, and genomics. A native of Mexico City, Mexico, Dr. Romero Arenas is passionate about recruiting the next generation of surgeons and is involved in mentoring through various organizations.
She enjoys fine arts, films, gastronomy, and sports. She enjoys jogging, swimming, and kickboxing. Most importantly, Dr. Romero Arenas treasures spending time with her family and loved ones.
Our blog is a forum for our members to speak, and as such, statements made here represent the opinions of the author, and are not necessarily the opinion of the Association of Women Surgeons.