The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland in the lower neck, and it makes a hormone that plays a role in cell metabolism.
Thyroid cancer develops when malignant cells form in the tissues of the thyroid.
It is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the United States.
There are approximately 57,000 newly diagnosed thyroid cancers every year in the U.S. with 14.5 cases per 100,000 people reported, according to the National Cancer Institute.
A recent study from Penn State Health showed that the incidence of thyroid cancer has tripled in the past three decades.
While diagnostic tools are better and easier to detect small thyroid cancer, the researchers also found that there has also been a rise in the incidence of larger tumors.
The main symptoms and signs of thyroid cancer include 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; and a constant cough that is not due to a cold.
For people without any signs or symptoms, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends against screening for thyroid cancer.
It suggests that such screening test offers no benefit and may even bring harms to people.
Their recommendation is published in JAMA.
Recent studies also suggest that in some situations, thyroid ‘cancer’ is not cancer.
For example, one study suggests that a slow-growing, noninvasive type of thyroid cancer that has a low risk of recurrence should not be classified as cancer.
Early detection of tumors that are indolent or non-progressing could lead to over-diagnosis, despite the presence of certain cellular abnormalities that are traditionally considered cancerous.
Noninvasive cancer in the study is a tumor type known as encapsulated follicular variant of papillary thyroid carcinoma (EFVPTC).
Although EFVPTC is not dangerous, it is typically treated as aggressively as other types of thyroid cancer.
In the study, researchers from seven countries and four continents independently reviewed 268 tumor samples diagnosed as EFVPTC from 13 institutions.
In a group of more than 100 noninvasive EFVPTCs, the team found there were no recurrences or other manifestations of the disease at a median follow-up of 13 years.
The researchers suggest that the word “cancer” could be dropped from its name, and the new name should be noninvasive follicular thyroid neoplasm with papillary-like nuclear features (NIFTP).
The study is published in JAMA Oncology.
In another study, a group of international researchers reviewed 109 patients with EFVPTC. They found that all of the patients were alive with no signs of cancer up to 26 years later.
The risk of this cancer recurring or metastasizing is really low and the team found patients don’t need to do extra treatment.
The authors estimate reclassifying this tumor could impact more than 45,000 patients worldwide each year.
Classifying this disease as non-cancer may help protect people from the side effects of cancer treatment and the financial burden of the treatment.
For example, people do not need to remove all of the thyroids and they do not need radioactive iodine therapy.
The radioactive iodine therapy for thyroid cancer can cost $5,000 to $8,500.
The researchers suggest that because NIFTP cannot be diagnosed at biopsy, patients with a suspicious nodule will still need to have a portion of their thyroid removed.
The research is published in JAMA Oncology.
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