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BACKGROUND: Thyroid cancer is the most common malignancy of the endocrine system, representing 3.8% of all new cancer cases in the United States and is the ninth most common cancer overall. The American Cancer Society estimates that 62,450 people in the United States will be diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2015, and 1950 deaths will result from the disease.

OBJECTIVE: To review the current approach to the diagnosis and treatment of patients with thyroid cancer.

DISCUSSION: Over the past 3 decades, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people diagnosed with thyroid cancer, which may be attributable to the wide use of imaging studies, including ultrasounds, computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, and positron emission tomography scans that incidentally detect thyroid nodules. Thyroid cancer is divided into several main types, with papillary thyroid cancer being the most common. The treatment options for patients with thyroid cancer include the surgical removal of the entire thyroid gland (total thyroidectomy), radioactive iodine therapy, and molecular-targeted therapies with tyrosine kinase inhibitors. This article summarizes the diagnosis and treatment of thyroid cancer, with recommendations from the American Thyroid Association regarding thyroid nodules and differentiated thyroid cancer. Recently approved drugs and treatment trends are also explored.

CONCLUSION: The prognosis and treatment of thyroid cancer depend on the tumor type and its stage at the time of diagnosis. Many thyroid cancers remain stable, microscopic, and indolent. The increasing treatment options for patients with thyroid cancer, including therapies that were recently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, have kept the mortality rate from this malignancy low, despite the increase in its incidence. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment can improve prognosis and reduce mortality.

Publisher's Statement

Originally published in American Health & Drug Benefits, 8(1), 30-40. Reprinted with permission of the publisher. Access on Touro Scholar restricted to Touro-affiliated users only. This material can be found here.