By Donna Shelley
Endocrinologist Lara Paraskos, M.D., treats disorders of the hormone-secreting glands that regulate certain functions within the body. Such disorders include diabetes, pituitary diseases, thyroid, metabolic and nutritional disorders and menstrual and sexual problems. She treats patients utilizing professional knowledge that comes from her extensive medical training and from personal knowledge that stems from her experience of having thyroid cancer.
While taking an endocrinology training course at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, Dr. Paraskos volunteered to be the mock patient during ultrasound training. Shockingly, the ultrasound revealed a problem. When Dr. Paraskos returned to Florida, she had a thyroid biopsy that confirmed she had thyroid cancer. An additional ultrasound discovered an issue with her lymph nodes.
“Prior to this, I had been healthy. I had never taken any medications,” Dr. Paraskos said. “How could this happen to me, an endocrinologist who treats this for a living?”
Dr. Paraskos had surgery to remove her thyroid and the affected lymph nodes and later received radioactive iodine treatment. With her cancer in remission, Dr. Paraskos has gone on to enjoy a normal, healthy life, including having three daughters.
“My experience as a thyroid cancer patient has made me a better doctor,” Dr. Paraskos explained. “This personal experience gives me a unique perspective on my patients with thyroid nodules and thyroid cancer. It allows me to empathize and show them that after treatment, they can be happy like me. I can provide comfort by sharing my own experience and vulnerability.”
While evaluating patients for thyroid nodules in her office, Dr. Paraskos performs fine needle aspirations, when needed. She uses topical lidocaine, a very thin biopsy needle and a specialized biopsy ultrasound probe that allows her to effectively perform thyroid biopsies with minimal discomfort. She also stains the slides herself to ensure adequacy of the sample and provide a preliminary diagnosis. By checking adequacy, she can perform the fewest number of passes possible. This attention to the patient’s comfort level was not available to Dr. Paraskos when she was being treated, she says. Instead of the six passes she endured, most of her patients will undergo two passes or fewer.
According to the American Cancer Society, 2018 estimates for thyroid cancer are 40,900 new cases in women and 13,090 new cases in men. The Society also states, “Thyroid cancer is inked with a number of inherited conditions, but the exact cause of most thyroid cancers is not yet known.” It is important to point out that early detection is the key to effectively diagnosing and treating thyroid cancer.
Dr. Paraskos grew up in Miami and graduated from Gulliver Preparatory School as salutatorian. She studied biology, Italian and mathematics at Emory University and earned her medical degree from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. She completed her residency in internal medicine and a fellowship in endocrinology at Jackson Memorial Hospital, where she served as both chief internal medicine resident and chief endocrinology fellow. She is board certified in internal medicine and endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism. She is affiliated with Baptist and South Miami Hospitals.
Dr. Paraskos practices at Endocrinology Associates, PA, located at 6141 Sunset Drive, Suite 402 in South Miami. For more information, call 305-665-2300 or visit www.endofl.com.