As seen on "NBC Nightly News" Monday, December 21, the thyroid cancer rate is rising rapidly, especially among women. The American Thyroid Association's members are working to educate more people about thyroid cancer as well as treat and cure it.
Facts on prevalence and impact of thyroid disease.
• Nearly 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease.
• About 60 percent of those with thyroid disease are unaware of their condition.
• Women are five to eight times more likely than men to have thyroid problems.
• One woman in eight will develop a thyroid disorder during her lifetime.
• Most thyroid cancers respond to treatment, although a small percentage can be very aggressive.
• The causes of thyroid problems are largely unknown.
• Undiagnosed thyroid disease may put patients at risk for certain serious conditions, such as cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis and infertility.
• Pregnant women with undiagnosed or inadequately treated hypothyroidism have an increased risk of miscarriage, preterm delivery, and severe developmental problems in their children.
• Most thyroid diseases are life-long conditions that can be managed with medical attention.
Thyroid nodules present dilemmas
Nodules appear on the thyroid glands of close to 300,000 Americans every year. Unfortunately, upon evaluation some thyroid nodules will indicate thyroid cancer. "Evaluating and treating thyroid nodules presents medical dilemmas and controversies," explains Hossein Gharib, M.D., professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine. Even many experts disagree on what should be done when thyroid nodules appear.
Thyroid Cancer in Children
There are many unanswered questions about the prevalence and treatment of thyroid cancer in children. "Despite an enormous thyroid disease burden among adults, the prevalence of many of these thyroid disorders are unknown during childhood," says Dr. Gary Francis of Virginia Commonwealth University.
Among those questions are: How common are thyroid nodules in children? What is the role of iodine deficiency? What is the risk of malignancy in a single thyroid nodule in a young person?
Thyroid cancer and the elderly
"Risks for disease aggressiveness and co-morbidities are important management considerations when treating thyroid cancer among the elderly," says Dr. Steven I. Sherman of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. "Curative surgery is not feasible in ten percent of patients over age 75 due to co-morbidities. Typically, these patients may have higher rates of asthma, emphysema, renal failure, arrhythmias and other serious conditions."
Treating thyroid cancer during pregnancy
According to Dr. Sherman, experts disagree on many aspects of treating thyroid cancer during pregnancy. There is 'a consensus of nonconsensus.' Data show that thyroid cancer is the second most likely (behind breast cancer) cancer diagnosed during pregnancy and that diagnoses for pregnant women are more likely to occur during the third to sixth month of pregnancy.
The American Thyroid Association is the world's leading professional association of medical specialists dedicated to education and research to improve thyroid disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment; improving thyroid patient care; and educating the public about thyroid health and diseases.