US Medical Body Recommends Against Screening for Thyroid Cancer

Screening for thyroid cancer is no longer recommended for adults with no symptoms, a U.S. health task force says.

In a news release, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force said physicians should not screen for the disease in adults who have “no signs or symptoms.”

Thyroid cancer, which grows on the thyroid, is relatively rare in the U.S., the Task Force said, adding there likely would be 56,300 new cases in 2017 or 3.8 percent of all cancers.

The thyroid is a gland found in the neck and it produces hormones governing metabolism.

The Task Force said there was no evidence that screening boosts survival and can lead to over diagnosis and other potential complications.

“While there is very little evidence of the benefits of screening for thyroid cancer, there is considerable evidence of the serious harms of treatment, such as damage to the nerves that control speaking and breathing,” said Task Force member Karina W. Davison, Ph.D., M.A.Sc. “What limited evidence is available does not suggest that screening enables people to live longer, healthier lives.”

Over diagnosis, the Task Force said, “leads to an increase in new diagnoses of thyroid cancer without affecting the number of people who die from thyroid cancer.”

“Over diagnosis occurs because screening for thyroid cancer often identifies small or slow growing tumors that might never affect a person during their lifetime,” said Task Force member Seth Landefeld, M.D. “People who are treated for these small tumors are exposed to serious risks from surgery or radiation, but do not receive any real benefit.”

The Task Force’s recommendation does not include people who’ve been exposed to radiation in the head or neck area, which can lead to a higher risk of developing thyroid cancer.

The Task Force’s recommendation was published in JAMA.

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