Saturday, March 7, 2015

Thyroid cancer is increasing everywhere

A few recent studies confirm my beliefs for the last few years.While both covered the rising incidence of thyroid cancer, one talked aobut the causes and diagnoses and the other covers the patient characteristics. Thyroid cancer is increasing in incidence and for all races and ethnicities. Yet there are the same discussions as with other cancers on over-treatment and over diagnosis.

"The number of newly diagnosed thyroid cancers has more than doubled during the last 3 decades, leaving no question that the incidence of thyroid cancer is rising. The answer as to why these numbers continue to increase eludes cancer specialists and endocrinologists.

“This is not just a little squeak up in the numbers,” R. Michael Tuttle, MD, professor of medicine and attending physician of endocrinology service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, told HemOnc Today. “This is a real increase that is being felt by thyroid surgeons, endocrinologists, nuclear medicine doctors and those in other specialties as well.”

Current data from the NCI’s SEER database show that the incidence of thyroid cancer in 1975 was 4.85 cases per 100,000 people. By 2007, this figure jumped to 11.99 per 100,000 people. And, although data are not yet available for the past year, it is estimated that 44,670 men and women were diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2010.

Mortality rates, however, have declined slightly from 0.55 deaths per 100,000 in 1975 to 0.47 per 100,000 in 2007, according to SEER data, leading physicians to wonder whether these increases are simply related to better detection of less invasive tumors and, if this is the case, how best to approach treatment."

So not only has the rate of incidence increase drastically but also the size of the population - which is how you get to the current incidence rates. From the American Cancer Society:
  • About 62,450 new cases of thyroid cancer (47,230 in women, and 15,220 in men)
  • About 1,950 deaths from thyroid cancer (1,080 women and 870 men) 
The original treatment for the last sixty years called for radioactive iodine to dissolve any remaining cancer after surgery. This leaves a patient requiring lifelong treatment and monitoring.

So what can be done about it? More research into causes, diagnosis and treatment. Research should also focus on quality of life for the patient and include more patient reported outcomes.

Finally, thyroid cancer should no longer be treated as a 'so-called good' cancer and get a lot more focus, funding, and research.

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