Sep 25, 2014 8:00 AM

Author: Office of Public Affairs

There’s a reason this disease is being thrust into the spotlight. During the past 20 years thyroid cancer has become increasingly common. In part this is because of wider use of medical imaging that can detect the disease at an early stage, although a true rise in the incidence of thyroid cancer may also be occurring: An estimated 62,000 people in the U.S. will receive a diagnosis in 2014. Marcus Monroe, MD, a head and neck surgeon with University of Utah Health, tells you what you need to know in recognition of Thyroid Cancer Prevention Month.

Q1. What are the top two things to know about thyroid cancer?

A. The first thing to know is that within Utah, the rates of thyroid cancer are higher than the national average, although the exact reasons behind this are unknown. The second thing to know is that survival for the most common types of thyroid cancer are quite good, with five-year survival rates around 98 percent.

Q2. How would I know whether I have thyroid cancer?

A. Many thyroid cancers are found incidentally during exams for other health problems. Other times, people have symptoms that bring them in to see a physician. These can include a mass within the thyroid gland or neck, voice changes, neck pain, coughing up blood and difficulty swallowing.

Q3. Who should be screened for thyroid cancer?

A. Risk factors include exposure to radiation, especially during childhood, a family history of thyroid cancer, age, being a woman and certain genetic syndromes. While routine screening for thyroid cancer is not currently recommended, patients with a family history of medullary thyroid cancer should undergo genetic screening to determine if they have a gene that makes thyroid cancer more likely. For patients who do carry the gene, surgery to remove the thyroid gland can help lower the risk of getting thyroid cancer. 

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