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Screening for Thyroid Cancer
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 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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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 .
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Last reviewed September 2013 by Mohei Abouzied, MD
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