Thyroid Cancer: A Simple Test for Early Detection
According to the American Cancer Society, more than 62,000 Americans were diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2015, and it is the most rapidly increasing incidence of cancer in the United States.
The thyroid gland is below the Adam’s apple in the front part of the neck and makes hormones that help control heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and weight. While thyroid cancer is not as common as other types of cancer, it can go unnoticed because it often does not come with symptoms.
Risk Factors for Thyroid Cancer:
Gender: For unclear reasons thyroid cancers, like almost all diseases of the thyroid, occur about 3 times more often in women than in men.
Age: Thyroid cancer can occur at any age, but the risk peaks earlier for women, who are most often in their 40s or 50s when diagnosed, than for men, who are usually in their 60s or 70s.
Diet: Diets low in iodine can lead to thyroid cancer, but in the United States this is not as much of an issue. Most people get enough iodine in their diet because it is added to table salt and other foods. A diet low in iodine may also increase the risk of papillary cancer if the person also is exposed to radioactivity.
Without symptoms, how can I tell if I have a problem with my thyroid?
“The most common way to detect if there is an issue is through a physical exam,” Says Dr. Jennifer Rosen, MD, a thyroid specialist at MedStar Washington Hospital. “We feel the gland to identify for any lumps or nodules. If we detect any abnormalities, we will then perform an ultrasound and an ultrasound-guided needle biopsy to determine the nature of the growth. We will then consult with the patient to determine the course of action that is appropriate for them.”
The best option to ensure a cure is the complete removal of the thyroid gland, a minimally invasive procedure called a total or near-total thyroidectomy. When cancer has spread beyond the gland to other tissue surgeons may perform a neck dissection to remove the thyroid and surrounding tissue which contains lymph nodes. Early detection can help minimize this procedure halting the cancer before it potentially spreads.
And what happens once the thyroid is removed? Patients typically return to their normal routine in a few days, but will have to take a thyroid hormone supplement for the duration of their lives to replace what can no longer be provided by the body naturally.
“In the end, a cancer diagnosis can be scary, but with our expertise and treatment approach, the outlook for patients with thyroid cancer can be very good,” Dr. Rosen concludes. “We follow our patients for life to monitor their cure.”
For more information, or to schedule an appointment, call
As heard on WTOP Radio:
Jennifer Rosen, MD
MedStar Washington Hospital Center
For more information, or to schedule an appointment, call 202-877-3627
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