15 May Widespread Thyroid Cancer Screening Likely Leads To Overdiagnosis and Overtreatment
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr. C. Seth Landefeld MD
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and
Chairman of the department of Medicine and
Spencer Chair in Medical Science Leadership
University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Medicine
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: Thyroid cancer is rare in the United States, and the evidence shows that screening for it leads to an increase in new diagnoses without affecting the number of people who die from it. This is because screening people without signs or symptoms for thyroid cancer often identifies small or slow-growing tumors that might never affect a person during their lifetime.
After reviewing the evidence, the Task Force found little evidence on the benefits of screening for thyroid cancer and considerable evidence that treatment, which is often unnecessary, can cause significant harms. Additionally, in places where universal screening has been implemented, it hasn’t helped people live longer, healthier lives.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: The Task Force recommends that people with no signs or symptoms of thyroid cancer do not get screened because the potential harms of screening and treatment outweigh the benefits.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Response: There are several areas where the Task Force called for more research, including studies that compared health outcomes for those who had been screened versus those who had not, as well as studies that look at health outcomes for those who opted for immediate surgery versus surveillance.
Additionally, more research is needed that examines the benefit of screening in people at high-risk for thyroid cancer, including those with a personal history of radiation or family history of differentiated thyroid cancer.
MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Response: Studies from several countries suggest that widespread screening for thyroid cancer is likely to result in overdiagnosis and overtreatment, and overtreatment harms some people. This is because people who are diagnosed with and treated for small or slow-growing tumors are exposed to risks from surgery or radiation, but do not receive any benefit because the tumors are unlikely to affect the person’s health during their lifetime
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US Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for Thyroid CancerUS Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement. JAMA. 2017;317(18):1882-1887. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.4011
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