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Cancer Channel
Reported December 26, 2012

Avoiding Unnecessary Surgeries: New Thyroid Cancer Test--Research Summary

BACKGROUND:  Thyroid cancer is a disease that happens when abnormal cells begin to grow in the thyroid gland.  The thyroid gland is a buttery shaped glad in the front of the neck that makes hormones to regulate the way the body uses energy and that help the body work normally.  It is the fastest growing cancer in the United States.  While the cause of thyroid cancer is unknown, experts believe that like other types of cancer changes in the DNA of the cells play a role.  People who have been exposed to a lot of radiation have a greater chance of getting thyroid cancer. (Source: webmd.com)

SYMPTOMS:  Several symptoms can result from thyroid cancer:

  • Trouble breathing or constant wheezing
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Hoarse voice
  • Pain in the neck or ears
  • Lumps or swelling in the neck (the most common symptom)

TREATMENT:  If there is a lump in the neck, then a doctor will take a biopsy of the thyroid gland to check for cancer cells.  A biopsy is a simple procedure in which a small piece of the thyroid tissue is removed.  Sometimes the result of the biopsy is not clear and often times results in surgery. (Source: webmd.com)

NEW TECHNOLOGY:  Half a million nodules are biopsied each year and 20 to 30 percent of these are inconclusive.  A ground breaking new test, called the gene expression test, measures inconclusive tissue.  It measures 142 gene patterns that are present in thyroid cancer and can tell if the nodule is benign or malignant.  The test is an ultrasound-guided needle biopsy that can accurately identify 62 to 85 percent of thyroid nodules as benign.  This new breakthrough can help people avoid expensive unnecessary surgeries. (Source: uphs.upenn.edu)

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