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September Is Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month

September is Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month, and physicians at the Mount Sinai Health System are sharing tips on prevention and urging high-risk groups to get screened.

“High-risk populations are individuals who have a family history of thyroid cancer, and people who have had exposure to radiation, “ said Mike Yao, MD, Associate Professor of Otolaryngology, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “Early detection is critical because thyroid cancer has a good prognosis and high cure rate, and less treatment is required if the cancer is detected at an early stage.”

According to the American Cancer Society, thyroid cancer is on the rise with an estimated 62,450 new cases diagnosed in 2016. In fact, cases among men and women have tripled over the last three decades. Nearly three out of four cases are found in women, and thyroid cancer is commonly diagnosed at a younger age than most adult cancers. The vast majority of thyroid cancer patients don’t experience symptoms, but most types of thyroid cancers can be successfully treated if detected early.

FREE Thyroid Screening: No registration, appointment or preparation required.
The Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery is hosting a free thyroid screening. It takes five minutes per patient, and includes an examination of the neck and an ultrasound screening of the thyroid.
• The Mount Sinai Hospital (Guggenheim Pavilion-Atrium of the Annenberg Building/1468 Madison Avenue at 100th Street) Thursday, September 29, 11:00 am – 2:00 pm

Thyroid Cancer Surveillance
Patients with a diagnosis of papillary thyroid cancer (the most common type) are not always required to pursue surgery. If their tumor is less than one centimeter in diameter, and has favorable characteristics, they have the option to be under strict monitoring with repeat ultrasound imaging to watch for possible growth. If the tumor does not grow, surgery may not be necessary. This management strategy called “active surveillance,” and used in low-risk patients with small cancers, has been endorsed by the American Thyroid Association.

“Every thyroid cancer patient should be treated specific to their disease, and by using this approach, surgery may be avoided in some cases,” said Ilya Likhterov, MD, Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “In many instances, using active surveillance may replace surgery.”

Genetic Testing
Mutational testing for thyroid cancer has been greatly refined over the last few years, and is becoming a more widely available and useful option for patients. If a needle biopsy on a nodule shows that it is not clearly benign or malignant, genetic testing can be done to narrow down the range of risk. It looks for specific mutations in the nodule and gives a more accurate prediction of possible malignancy. This helps patients decide what treatment, if any, should be pursued.

“Mutational testing has been extremely important tool for physicians to counsel patients by giving them hard, numerical data,” said Marita Teng, MD, Residency Program Director, Associate Professor, Department of Otolaryngology, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “We can make better decisions on observing patients with no treatment, or consider surgery sooner rather than later.”

Facts on Thyroid Cancer

• Thyroid cancer is a cancerous tumor or growth located within the thyroid gland
• Thyroid cancer is more common in women, and in people 30 and older
• There are several types of thyroid cancer; the most common is papillary carcinoma which is often curable, especially if caught early
• History of radiation to the head, neck, or chest; exposure to radiation; and family history of thyroid cancer are important risk factors
• Symptoms of thyroid cancer include a lump in the neck by the thyroid, neck pain (sometimes going up the ears), hoarseness in the voice, difficulty swallowing and breathing, persistent cough, and enlarged lymph glands in the neck
• Regular follow-up care is an important part of treatment for patients with thyroid cancers

Tips for Thyroid Cancer Prevention

• Have a physical exam every year
• Have a thyroid physical exam every three years if you are 20-39 years old
• Have a thyroid physical exam every year if you are 40 or older
• Avoid unnecessary exposure to radiation
• Get frequent checks if you’ve been exposed to radiation of the head neck or chest
• Perform a thyroid neck self-exam, looking for asymmetries or protrusions below the Adam’s apple

Experts Available for Interviews

• Marita Teng, MD, Residency Program Director, Associate Professor, Department of Otolaryngology, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai; member of the Head and Neck Institute at The Mount Sinai Hospital
http://www.mountsinai.org/profiles/marita-s-teng
• Mike Yao, MD, Associate Professor of Otolaryngology, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
http://www.mountsinai.org/profiles/mike-yao
• Edward Shin, MD, Chair, Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai; Professor of Clinical Otolaryngology, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
http://www.mountsinai.org/profiles/edward-j-shin
• Stimson Schantz, MD, Surgeon Director, Medical Board for Otolaryngology, New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai; Professor of Otolaryngology, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
http://www.mountsinai.org/profiles/stimson-p-schantz
• Mark Urken, MD, Co-Director, Institute for Head Neck and Thyroid Cancer, Mount Sinai Beth Israel; Professor of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
http://www.mountsinai.org/profiles/mark-l-urken
• Ilya Likhterov, MD, Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
http://www.mountsinai.org/profiles/ilya-likhterov

Patient Available for Interviews

Professional singer and songwriter, 38-year-old Bess McCrary is celebrating her emotional five year milestone of being cancer free, and is excited to share her incredible journey of surviving and thriving after thyroid cancer. McCrary’s encounter with cancer began during a routine cleaning at the dentist in 2011, when a hygienist noticed her enlarged thyroid. With a family history of thyroid cancer, McCrary immediately visited her ENT, and the biopsy of her thyroid nodules came back positive with stage 3 cancer. Terrified by any surgical treatment for her cancer, McCrary understood the possibility of damage to her vocal nerves and the end of her career. She was referred to Dr. Marita Teng at The Mount Sinai Hospital, who performed a successful thyroidectomy to remove her cancer which was followed by radiation, and months of intense vocal therapy at Mount Sinai. Now cancer free, McCrary was determined to sing professionally again and recently recorded and released an album with her “new” voice. She believes Dr. Teng’s care and dedication played a critical role in her success. “It’s that kind of personal care and interest that will keep me and my (growing) family coming back to Mount Sinai for years to come,” said McCrary. She’s still in touch with Dr. Teng and recently told her she gave birth to a baby girl this summer!