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Study: Thyroid cancer and surgeries on the rise

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GREENVILLE, N.C. - A Mayo Clinic study suggests the rapid growth in cases of thyroid cancers may be a result of technological advancements and lead to the treatment of “low-risk tumors”.

According to the study, in the last 30 years the number of people diagnosed with slow-growing thyroid cancers has tripled, while the deaths from such cancer have remained the same. A finding, the study suggests, is leading to the rising epidemic of thyroid cancer.

One reason for the increase in the number of cases is technological advancements like ultrasounds, CT and MRI scanning. These scans have the ability to detect thyroid nodules as small as one to two millimeters, which could indicate a slow growing form of thyroid cancer.

The standard treatment of papillary thyroid cancer is surgery and radioactive iodine treatment.

The study suggests that it may be more cost effective and less invasive to monitor these thyroid nodules, before patients opt for surgery and the radioactive iodine treatment, which has short and long term effects.

East Carolina University Thoracic Oncologist Dr. Paul Walker says treatment for thyroid cancer should be up the patient and their physician.

"Cancer is cancer and the only place to watch it is under a microscope out of the individual’s body and not watch it inside an individual because you never know when it could metastasize, and then death could occur down the road," said Walker.

Walker says the study does make a good point about the overuse or misuse of the radioactive iodine treatment following surgery.

"One good point is that radioactive iodine in papillary thyroid cancer is being overused and misused, because if it's less than 1 cm, there is no need for anything but surgery alone," said Walker.

Walker emphasizes the importance of patients and doctors coming up with personalized thyroid cancer treatment that is comfortable for both parties.

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