When caught in an early state, thyroid cancer is very treatable, and estimates suggest that it has a survival rate hovering around 97 percent. Even though the condition is very treatable, you may have heard the recent pitches by celebrities and other health officials to get screened for thyroid cancer. The phrase “check your neck” is becoming more popular, but are more screenings a smart decision? You may be surprised by the answer.
Thyroid Cancer Screenings
As we get older, there are certain screenings that everyone should get. Prostate exams, mammograms and colon cancer screenings have helped to save countless lives, and those screenings serve a critical function. But according to a new statement from the United States Preventative Services Task Force, not all screenings are completely necessary. The USPSTF recently spoke out against routine thyroid cancer screenings.
“While there is very little evidence of the benefits of screening for thyroid cancer, there is considerable evidence of the serious harms of treatment, such as damage to the nerves that control speaking and breathing” said task force member Dr. Karina W. Davison, of Columbia University Medical Center.
For starters, let’s be clear that the task force is only advising against screening for individuals who are not showing any signs of thyroid cancer. If you are presenting symptoms, they advise that you seek out a thyroid expert as soon as possible. Symptoms of thyroid cancer include hoarseness, pain or difficulty while swallowing, lumps in the neck, swelling and changes in voice.
Why Not Screen?
So what does the USPSTF mean when they say there is little benefit and plenty of drawbacks of treatment? When it comes to thyroid cancer treatment, health data suggests that roughly two-thirds of adults have evidence of thyroid nodules during a routine examine, but the majority of these formations are harmless and will not cause issues. It is difficult to parse out which tiny formations will turn out to be problematic with invasive testing, which can do more harm than good.
Moreover, the USPSTF suggests that there is no evidence that asymptomatic patients who receive treatment for their nodules have better treatment outcomes than individuals who are treated once their condition becomes symptomatic. On other words, treating thyroid growths in individuals with no symptoms did not yield higher survival rates than individuals who had these growths treated when symptoms first arose.
Essentially, the USPSTF is saying that you can ditch the professional thyroid cancer screening as long as you are doing regular personal checks for symptoms of thyroid cancer. So make it a point to check your throat at least once a week for signs of a thyroid growth or thyroid cancer. If you’re noticing any lumps, asymmetrical formations or changes in your voice, set up an appointment with Dr. Koeplin. As long as you’re staying on top of the warning signs, you probably won’t benefit from professional thyroid screening.