Tailored to the thyroid: Chilton center’s leader explains how it provides state-of-the-art treatment for all manner of illnesses related to neck gland

Let’s start with some good news — because that’s what everyone wants when they have been diagnosed with cancer: The survival rate for thyroid cancer is high, nearly 100% in many instances.

“It’s one of the most treatable types of cancer,” Dr. Jeffrey Plutchok said.

The key word is “treatable.”

Plutchok, a highly regarded radiologist who heads up the Atlantic Thyroid Center at Chilton Medical Center in Pompton Plains, is eager to provide treatment for anyone suffering with any type of ailment related to their thyroid.

Plutchok said the center, which opened in June 2020, provides state-of-the-art diagnostic and radioactive imaging and treatment for patients with hyperthyroidism, thyroid cancer and parathyroid adenomas.

“We have an experienced, multidisciplinary team of diagnostic imaging specialists dedicated to prevention, diagnosis, treatment, research and survivorship for patients with thyroid disorders,” he said.

And Plutchok, who completed his fellowship and subspecialty training in nuclear medicine and PET imaging at Columbia-Presbyterian in Manhattan, said he knows firsthand that patients don’t have to travel far for world-class care.

“Our care compares to the care given at metropolitan academic medical centers, including renowned subspecialists, access to clinical trials, leading-edge technology, innovative medical treatments and compassionate support services,” he said. “All this is available to patients within their own communities. 

Signs or symptoms of thyroid disorders

Thyroid cancer can cause any of the following signs or symptoms:

  • A lump in the neck, sometimes growing quickly;
  • Swelling in the neck;
  • Pain in the front of the neck, sometimes going up to the ears;
  • Hoarseness or other voice changes that do not go away;
  • Trouble swallowing;
  • Trouble breathing;
  • A constant cough that is not due to a cold.

“What’s more, our multidisciplinary team includes highly trained and compassionate medical professionals and physicians, many of whom are recognized regionally and nationally as experts in their fields.”

Here’s how they work together.

For starters, the thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland at the base of the neck that releases hormones that control the body’s metabolism. These hormones regulate a range of bodily functions. Disorders of the thyroid range from goiter (an enlarged gland) to potentially life-threatening cancer.

Plutchok said successful thyroid cancer treatment typically starts with a surgery, called a thyroidectomy, that removes the thyroid gland. Some patients then also benefit from a nuclear medicine treatment called radioactive iodine therapy, which helps to destroy any remaining thyroid cells.

“Data show that radioactive iodine therapy is safe and effective in removing any remaining thyroid tissue and thyroid cancer,” Plutchok said. “And, because we treat gently, we give the least amount of radiation possible.”

The center also has developed a program that uses a combination of ultrasound, nuclear medicine and high-resolution 4D CT scans to image small, noncancerous tumors of the tiny parathyroid glands that can cause hyperparathyroidism.

Patients who need surgery for thyroid nodules or thyroid cancer are referred to Atlantic Health physician partners at Morristown and Overlook medical centers.

For all the success in the operating room, Plutchok said he is especially proud of the complete care the patients receive.

Nurse navigator Bridget Laudien oversees a program that supports patients throughout their journey, providing continual education, preparation guidance and emotional support. She also assists with scheduling and insurance coverage, as well as actively tracking patients to offer optimal follow-up care in the years following their initial therapy. 

In addition, a staff physicist has a consultation with each patient to provide direction on the appropriate radiation safety precautions to keep them and their families safe during and after treatment.

“Our goal is to ensure patients are guided individually throughout the process, and that each person receives high-quality, compassionate care close to home,” Plutchok said.

Conversation Starter

Reach Atlantic Thyroid Center at: atlantichealth.org/thyroid or call 973-831-5130.