Could this Cancerous Nodule Combined with a Great Deal of Stress Have Played a Part in My Psychotic Breaks?
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Q:  Could this Cancerous Nodule Combined with a Great Deal of Stress Have Played a Part in My Psychotic Breaks?

Wondering about the correlation between thyroid cancer and bipolar disorder.  I've had a thyroid nodule found about 6 years doctors believed was benign and did not biopsy.  Four years ago I had two severe psychotic breaks due to a great deal of stress in my life. Two years ago the psychotic break was so severe I tried to drown my daughter (sacrifice her or the world would come to an end).  Since then  I have separated from my husband and kids but we are on good terms. Two months ago my doctor decided the nodule was big enough to biopsy and found it to  be cancerous. Had it removed and am preparing for radioactive iodine. Went in for my annual mammogram before the  radiation and, needless to say, came back today from a breast biopsy. Will find out the results tomorrow and I'm stressed I will be treating two cancers at once.  Could this cancerous nodule combined with a great deal of stress have played a part in my psychotic breaks?


The relationship between bipolar illness and thyroid dysfunction is a complicated one.  Hyperthyroidism can mimic the symptoms of mania, and hypothyroidism can be a cause of depressive symptoms.  Recent studies have also shown that autoimmune thyroiditis was related to the development of bipolar disorder, and that bipolar patients have a higher incidence of thyroid autoimmunity (cells in the body that would attack the thyroid gland).  
It is difficult to tell if the cancers contributed to the psychotic breaks or not.  Certainly putting the body under stress contributes to less stability.  I did find one case report from 1988 from Australia that discussed serious violent acts during the course of a psychotic illness and then at a later date papillary carcinoma of the thyroid was diagnosed in the individual.  The thought was that possibly the neuroendocrine changes reportedly associated with violence may have allowed the cancers to grow.  So, in effect, the reverse may be true - the violence that occurred during your psychotic episodes may have contributed to the growth of your thyroid cancer.
Dr Plyler

Published October, 2011


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