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May 9, 2017

How to Look for Thyroid Cancer

Author Affiliations
  • 1Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism, Department of Medicine, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
  • 2Associate Editor, JAMA
JAMA. 2017;317(18):1840-1841. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.4068

Detection of thyroid carcinoma includes recognition of a nodule by the patient, palpation of a nodule by the physician, or incidental detection of a thyroid nodule during imaging procedures, such as carotid ultrasonography or chest computed tomography. Individual nodules carry a risk of 7% to 9% of harboring a thyroid carcinoma.1 Thyroid carcinomas are usually contained within the thyroid gland and have excellent prognosis, with less than 2% mortality at 5 years.2 These data might suggest a public health benefit of screening—cancer is detected at an early enough stage to have an excellent prognosis. Why not broaden the scope of detection by palpation or as an incidental finding to include routine screening, and detect more of these carcinomas while they are asymptomatic?