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Spring 2006

Thyroid Cancer on the Rise but Most Types Very Curable

Unlike other thyroid conditions, thyroid cancer rarely presents with obvious symptoms

Thyroid cancer is on the rise-the incidence of new cases is increasing faster than for any other type of malignancy, according to the National Cancer Institute-but the prognosis for patients generally is very good. Some cases of thyroid cancer are, of course, more serious than others, and about 1,500 Americans do die each year from the disease. In most cases, however, "it is eminently treatable surgically, has minimal complications, and with appropriate follow-up therapy patients can look forward to very favorable results," says Jonathan Hiatt, M.D., chief of general surgery at UCLA. Five-year survival rates are about 97 percent.

The American Cancer Society estimated that more than 25,000 new cases of thyroid cancer would be diagnosed in the United States in 2005, nearly three-quarters of them in women and primarily among younger people between the ages of 20 and 55. Unlike other diseases of the thyroid, such as hyperor hypothyroidism, thyroid cancer rarely presents itself with obvious metabolic symptoms, and often is detected when a patient notices a lump or nodule in his or her neck, or during routine checkups. It is unclear why thyroid cancer is on the rise, says Michael W. Yeh, M.D., director, UCLA's Endocrine Surgical Unit. "Some experts think it is due to environmental exposures, and others believe the rate actually is the same as in the past, but the disease is more easily identified now."

Treatment includes surgically removing the cancerous thyroid, followed by radioactive iodine treatment to destroy any remaining normal or cancerous thyroid cells. Dr. Yeh explains that thyroid cells are unique in their ability to absorb iodine, which is required for thyroid cells to produce thyroid hormone. When they absorb the radioactive iodine, this destroys the cell from within, leaving non-thyroid cells in the rest of the body unharmed. This creates a perfect chemotherapy strategy-targeting only thyroid cells without producing any side effects for the patient.
New UCLA Endocrine Surgical Unit Opens
Disorders of the endocrine glands may require medical management and/or specialized surgical techniques to treat:

• Thyroid nodules
• Thyroid cancer
• Hyperthyroidism (includingGraves disease)
• Hyperparathyroidism
• Adrenal tumors
• Familial endocrine diseases




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