Recent radio ads featuring Rod Stewart are encouraging everyone to get screened for thyroid cancer. However, unless you already have symptoms, the screening is completely unwarranted and could lead to unnecessary surgical interventions. Cancer of the thyroid gland is surprisingly common. Yet the majority of thyroid cancer cases have no negative effects on the body.
According Dr. Seth Landefeld of the US Preventative Services Task Force: “The common conception is every cancer is going to grow until it’s stopped or removed or kills your. That is not the case with these cancers.”
You can read more about this study here.
South Korea started a similar campaign around 15 years ago encouraging thyroid cancer screening. The rates of diagnosis of thyroid cancer skyrocketed, but mortality rates were not reduced at all.
What does this mean? Ultimately, people are undergoing thyroid surgery and sometimes being placed on lifelong medications when they didn’t have to. Additional screening had no effect in reducing mortality rates.
Bottom line: Unless you show symptoms of thyroid cancer, you don’t need to be screened for it.
Symptoms of thyroid cancer can include:
- swelling and/or pain of the neck
- difficulty swallowing
- change in your voice