Is there a cure for endocrine system diseases?

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Dr. Jack Merendino, MD
Endocrinology Diabetes & Metabolism
There are many diseases of the endocrine system, so this is not a simple yes-or-no question. For some there may be a curative treatment. For many there is treatment that will control the symptoms and prevent further problems from developing. In some cases there may not be very effective treatment.

Many of the endocrine diseases that can be cured are those that result from tumors that can be surgically removed. Although doctors tend to be conservative in using the word “cure” for cancer, most patients treated for thyroid cancer are effectively cured by surgery, often in combination with radioactive iodine treatment. If the entire thyroid is removed at surgery, as is usually done for thyroid cancer, the person will be dependent on thyroid medication, so he or she will now have a new thyroid problem -- hypothyroidism -- but the initial thyroid cancer will have been cured in most cases. Pituitary tumors and tumors of the adrenal glands are often surgically curable. Cancers of the testes are often curable with surgery, radiation therapy or chemotherapy.

Many common endocrine problems cannot be cured but can be effectively treated with medication and/or lifestyle change. Diabetes is the prime example of this. If a person who is obese or has very poor dietary and exercise habits develops diabetes, he or she might actually “cure” the condition by losing weight or making lifestyle changes, though most physicians, myself included, would say that the diabetes has become “diet-controlled” or perhaps is “in remission.” We are hesitant to use the word cure because the diabetes will often recur later, especially if the person’s commitment to lifestyle change doesn’t stick. Thyroid disease is almost always treated very effectively, and the same is true for most conditions involving too much or too little hormone production by other glands.

Unfortunately, some endocrine disorders cannot be treated very satisfactorily. Although rare, adrenal cancer is usually not very responsive to treatment unless the tumor can be removed surgically before it metastasizes. Hypoparathyroidism, which causes low blood calcium, is an example of hormone under-production for which conventional treatment is not very satisfactory.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.