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Screening is a way to evaluate people without symptoms to determine if they are at risk for cancer or have already developed cancer.
According to the US Preventive Services Task Force, there are no official screening guidelines for thyroid cancer. Testing is only recommended for people who are experiencing symptoms suggestive of thyroid cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, all people between the ages of 21 and 40 should have their neck, lymph nodes, and the area directly over their thyroid gland examined (palpated) every year.
There are some healthcare providers who think that people with a higher-than-normal risk of thyroid cancer should be periodically screened. Factors that lead to a higher-than-normal risk include the following:
If you fit one of these categories, you may be advised to have your blood calcitonin levels measured periodically, as well as undergo annual neck and thyroid palpation.
If members of your family have a genetic defect (a change or mutation in the RET gene) that increases the risk of medullary thyroid cancer, you should strongly consider having genetic testing done to determine your personal risk and the risk of transmitting this gene to your children. The screening blood tests include: calcitonin and RET proto-oncogene. This type of cancer may arise during childhood and at a very young age. Thus families may wish to openly discuss the risks and benefits of genetic testing to determine the frequency of screening among members.
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Cooper DS, Doherty GM, et al. The American Thyroid Association Guidelines Taskforce: management guidelines for patients with thyroid nodules and differentiated thyroid cancer. Thyroid. 2006;16:1-33.
Cornett WR, Sharma AK, et al. Anaplastic thyroid carcinoma: an overview. Curr Oncol Rep. 2007;9:152-158.
Rachmiel M, Charron M, et al. Evidence-based review of treatment and follow up of pediatric patients with differentiated thyroid carcinoma. J Pediatr Endocrinol Metab. 2006;19:1377-1393.
Report of the US Preventive Services Task Force: Screening for thyroid cancer. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality website. Available at: http://www.ahrq.gov/clinic/uspstf/uspsthca.htm.
Thyroid carcinoma. In: Cecil Textbook of Medicine. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders; 2000: 1247-1250.
What is thyroid cancer? American Cancer Society website. Available at http://www.cancer.org/docroot/CRI/CRI_2_3x.asp?dt=43. Accessed December 10, 2002.
What you need to know about cancer of the thyroid. National Cancer Institute website. Available at http://cancer.gov. Accessed December 10, 2002.
Last reviewed September 2016 by Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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