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Thyroid Cancer Prevention and Early Detection

Many cases of thyroid cancer can be found early, increasing the odds of a cure. Make sure to tell your doctor if you notice a lump or swelling in your neck.

Most people with thyroid cancer have no known risk factors, so it is not possible to prevent most cases of this disease. Radiation exposure, especially in childhood, is a known risk factor for thyroid cancer. Because of this, doctors no longer use radiation treatment for less serious diseases. In general, it is a good idea for children to avoid any X-rays that aren't necessary.

​Genetic blood tests now available to test for the mutations found in familial medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC). Because of this, most of the familial cases of MTC can be prevented or treated early by removing the thyroid gland. Once the disease is discovered in a family, the rest of the family members can be tested for the mutated gene. 

​If you have a family history of MTC, it is important to see a doctor who is familiar with the latest advances in genetic counseling and genetic testing for this disease. Removing the thyroid gland in children who carry the abnormal gene will prevent a cancer that might otherwise be fatal.

​Many cases of thyroid cancer can be found early. In fact, most thyroid cancers are now found much earlier than in the past and can be treated successfully. Most early thyroid cancers are diagnosed after patients ask their doctors about lumps or nodules they have noticed. Others are found by health care professionals during a routine checkup. Although it's unusual, some thyroid cancers may not cause symptoms until after they reach an advanced stage.

​If you have unusual symptoms, such as a lump or swelling in your neck, you should make an appointment to see your doctor right away. During routine physical exams, be sure your doctor does a cancer-related checkup that includes an examination of the thyroid. Some doctors recommend that people examine their own necks twice a year to look for any growths or lumps.

​Early thyroid cancers are sometimes found when people have ultrasound tests for other health problems, such as narrowing of carotid arteries (which pass through the neck to supply blood to the brain) or for enlarged or overactive parathyroid glands. Although blood tests or thyroid ultrasound often find changes in the thyroid, these tests are not recommended for early detection unless there is a reason (such as family history) to suspect a person is at increased risk for thyroid cancer.

​People with a family history of medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) may be at very high risk for developing thyroid cancer. Most doctors recommend genetic testing for these people when they are young to see if they carry the gene changes linked to MTC. For people who may be at risk but don't get genetic testing, blood tests are available that can help find MTC at an early stage when it may still be curable. Thyroid ultrasounds may also be done in high risk people.

​By: The American Cancer Society

Gene 'Signature' May Point to Lung Cancer 

(HealthDay News) -- In a finding that could lead to a simple blood test to screen for lung cancer, U.S. researchers have identified immune system markers that indicate early-stage lung tumors in people at high risk for lung cancer. The researchers examined gene expression profiles in blood samples from 137 people with non-small cell lung cancer and a control group of 91 people with non-malignant lung diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema or benign lung nodules. They identified a 29-gene "signature" that was 86 percent accurate in identifying those with lung cancer, who had certain genetic changes in immune cells that the others did not. Blood samples were taken from 18 of those with lung cancer before surgery to remove their tumors and two to five months after surgery. After surgery, 13 of them showed a decrease or disappearance of the tumor gene signature. The study was published online Dec. 1 in Cancer Research. The researchers said it might be possible to use the findings to develop a simple blood test to screen for lung cancer. "People routinely get blood taken at their doctors' offices for cholesterol levels, diabetes and other standard tests, so why not utilize this method to screen for other conditions such as the risk of developing lung cancer?" Louise C. Showe, a professor in the molecular and cellular oncology and immunology programs and director of the genomics facility at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia, said in a news release from the institute. "Such a test could be especially useful for remote areas where, typically, technologies that are used in urban centers are not available," she said. "In addition, this test could be useful in a clinical setting to help to decide whether a small tumor detected on an X-ray is likely to be malignant.

​"More information 
​The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about lung cancer screening.

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