The USPSTF upholds its 1996 recommendation against screening for thyroid cancer among asymptomatic adults.
The USPSTF commissioned the systematic review due to the rising incidence of thyroid cancers against a background of stable mortality, which is suggestive of over-treatment. And in view of the results, the task force concluded with “moderate certainty” that the harms outweigh the benefits of screening.
The USPSTF emphasizes, however, that this recommendation pertains only to the general asymptomatic adult population, and not to individuals who present with throat symptoms, lumps or swelling, or those at high risk for thyroid cancer.
A global problem
The over-diagnosis of thyroid cancer is worldwide.
South Korean doctors treated these newly diagnosed thyroid cancers by completely removing the thyroid—a thyroidectomy. People who undergo these surgeries require thyroid replacement hormones for the rest of their lives. And adjusting the dose can be difficult. Patients suffer from too much thyroid replacement hormone (sweating, heart palpitations, and weight loss) or too little (sleepiness, depression, constipation, and weight gain). Worse, because of nerves that travel close to the thyroid, some patients suffer vocal-cord paralysis, which affects speech.
Over-diagnosis and over-treatment of thyroid cancer hasn’t been limited to South Korea. In France, Italy, Croatia, Israel, China, Australia, Canada, and the Czech Republic, the rates of thyroid cancer have more than doubled. In the United States, they’ve tripled. In all of these countries, as had been the case in South Korea, the incidence of death from thyroid cancer has remained the same.
1 in 3 people die with thyroid cancer, not of.
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