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Are Doctors Overdiagnosing Thyroid Cancer? Maybe They Are.

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Are Doctors Overdiagnosing Thyroid Cancer? Maybe They Are.

The number of thyroid cancer cases has tripled since 1975, a statistic that raises many questions. The thyroid is the gland on the front of the neck that plays a role in regulating the body’s metabolism.

Have the number of thyroid cancer cases tripled because incidence of cancer is on the rise, or could it be simply due to the fact that doctors are quick to diagnose thyroid cancer?

The answer is probably a combination of both factors, says Kenneth H. Cooper, MD, MPH, Chairman and Founder of Cooper Aerobics

According to Dr. Gilbert Welch, a professor of medicine at Dartmouth's Geisel School of Medicine and an author on a recent study about thyroid cancer, while the rate of diagnosis has increased, death rates from the cancer has remained relatively unchanged at just 0.5 per 100,000 cases.

Although the death rate of thyroid cancer has not changed as the incidence of the cancer increases, the American Cancer Society estimates that almost 2,000 people in the U.S. will die in 2014 from this malignancy.

“We’re not talking about a completely benign problem here,” says Dr. Cooper. “But observing a growth on the thyroid shouldn’t necessarily lead to panic, either.”

The current recommendations in cases of a growth on the thyroid are to observe the nodule and biopsy it if it grows to exceed 1.5 centimeters (cm) in size. “If it is a solid nodule, larger than two centimeters, a biopsy is strongly recommended,” says Dr. Cooper. Lumps in the thyroid are common, and in most cases, they are benign.

The good news for patients who may require surgery is that it’s a relatively low-risk procedure. “Surgery to remove the thyroid gland is a fairly benign procedure with very a low morbidity rate,” says Dr. Cooper. “The complications and long-term negative effects are rare and very easy to control.”

If a solid nodule can be palpated during a physical examination and/or document by ultrasonography, if it is smaller than 1.5 (cm), Dr. Cooper recommends the patient follow up with his or her physician in six to 12 month intervals. Biopsy would only be necessary if growth exceeds 1.5 to two centimeters.

Symptoms of thyroid cancer
If you notice any of the following signs or symptoms of thyroid cancer, you should schedule an appointment with your physician.

  • Lump or swelling in the neck
  • Pain the front of the neck
  • Hoarseness or voice changes that do not go away
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Constant cough that is not due to a cold

These symptoms may be caused by a non-cancerous condition, but if cancer is the cause, early detection and treatment is always beneficial.

For information about Cooper Clinic’s comprehensive preventive exam, click here or call 866.906.2667.

Article provided by Cooper Aerobics Marketing and Communications.