Thyroid cancer, which occurs when abnormal cells begin growing and reproducing on the thyroid gland, is on the rise. However, inaccurate diagnoses frequently lead to unnecessary surgeries. These surgical procedures may be avoided in the future thanks to an innovative new gene expression test.
The thyroid gland, located in the neck, helps to regulate a large number of bodily functions, including metabolism. It is not uncommon for someone to develop bumps or nodules on the thyroid gland. In most cases, these bumps are completely harmless.
In order for a doctor to determine whether or not these nodules require treatment, a biopsy must be performed. This is done by removing a cluster of cells and examining them under a microscope. The problem lies in the fact that the results of this type of test are often inconclusive. It is not always possible to tell if the cells are malignant, which means cancerous. Noncancerous cells are termed benign.
Since most patients and doctors abide by the rule of better safe than sorry, the nodules are treated as though they are malignant, or cancerous. The next step is to take out the nodules by surgically removing all or part of the thyroid gland. The result is a spike in surgical procedures that may not have been needed in the first place.
This new gene expression test has undergone extensive clinical trials in which it consistently and correctly identified malignant cells. Diagnostic use of this test could result in a severe drop in unnecessary surgeries if thyroid conditions can be diagnosed more accurately.
Causes of Thyroid Cancer
The precise cause of thyroid cancer is unknown. The following factors might be linked to the increase in occurrences.
- Autoimmune disorders
- Environmental triggers
- Iodine deficiency
When spotted early, thyroid cancer generally responds quite well to treatment.
Symptoms of Thyroid Cancer
Though there are benign conditions that exhibit these same symptoms, it is best to consult a doctor if any of these persist.
- A growing lump or swelling in the neck
- Pain in the front of the neck that may reach up to the ears
- Persistent hoarseness or vocal changes
- Difficulty swallowing
- Breathing issues
- A constant cough in the absence of a cold
While the reasons for the increasing rates of thyroid cancer are uncertain, the death rate has remained stable. For those with a family history of thyroid disease, routine checkups are recommended.
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