Dr. Oz: Is Thyroid Cancer Being Overdiagnosed?
Dr. Oz talked to an endocrinologist named Dr. Florence Comite who believes most thyroid cancers should not be treated. Thyroid cancer has been on the rise over the past few decades, but Dr. Comite said this indicates overdiagnosis, not something more serious.
We now have technology that can detect very small lesions in the thyroid. This is why Dr. Comite argues there’s been so many diagnoses of this condition. Over time, nodules develop in the thyroid that can be solid or fluid-filled. One in three people have these nodules. Not all of them are problematic.
But some of them are cancerous, which Dr. Comite said is misleading terminology. These rarely go on to cause damage. They’re very slow-growing. Fewer than one percent lead to any kind of damage long term. Dr. Comite said that if we live to the age of 80, 90 percent of us will have thyroid nodules.
Dr. Oz said it’s hard for doctors to tell people with cancer to go home and watch it. Dr. Comite said doctors do that in other cancers, such as prostate cancer. They also do that with skin lesions. This is a field called “active surveillance.”
Dr. Oz: Thyroid Cancer Risk Factors & Treating Thyroid Cancer
People most at risk for thyroid cancer is women ages 20 to 55, people with a family history, and people with a low-iodine diet.
Dr. Oz asked Dr. Comite what she would say to a 25-year-old woman with thyroid cancer. How does she convince her to live her whole life with this disease? Dr. Comite said that it’s not really cancer. It’s a glitch in her system that deserves monitoring.
If you have surgery on it, you might have your thyroid taken out or part of the thyroid out. Sometimes it also involves radiation therapy and shutting the thyroid down for good. This means hormone medication. Dr. Comite said that she believes it makes more sense to let the person’s body take care of it than to do all of these other things.
Dr. Oz: How Do You Monitor Thyroid Cancer?
Dr. Oz said it makes sense not to treat all cancers equally and doctors are taught that in medical school, although it’s hard to do this. But he wondered how Dr. Comite would monitor this hypothetical 25-year-old for the rest of her life. She said regular ultrasounds, monitoring of thyroid hormones, eating well, sleeping well, and making sure to take in more iodine.
She said just like with prostate cancer and skin lesions, patients should be seen more often, such as every six months. As the system appears more stable, patients can be seen less and less often.
Dr. Oz: Get a Second Opinion on Thyroid Cancer
Dr. Oz talked to his colleagues at New York Presbyterian Hospital and they thought this was a very radical proposal. Dr. Comite agreed it’s a torn field right now. There’s a study from the Mayo Clinic that suggested we call the condition glitches or abnormalities in the cells. She said the data looks very good for monitoring prostate cancer, so it’s promising that monitoring thyroid cancer might be a successful practice as well.
She said patients with thyroid cancer should maybe get a second opinion before having surgery for this reason. I would like to say that I think it’s always important to follow the advice of the doctor who is actually familiar with your case. I think what Dr. Comite is suggesting could be dangerous. Make sure to talk to your health care provider about your condition before making any decisions.