Thyroid cancer is one of the most rapidly increasing malignancies in the United States. Cases are increasing partly because of increased screening and detection of very small (≤ 1cm) tumors called thyroid papillary microcarcinomas (PMC). PMC is a low-risk thyroid cancer as it rarely causes any symptoms and does not usually progress.
Recent guidelines published by the American Thyroid Association (ATA) (2015) indicate that these low-risk thyroid cancers may be treated just as effectively either with surgery (removal of the thyroid) or active surveillance. Active surveillance is an emerging treatment option best described as “watch and wait.” With repeated screenings, this has the potential of replacing many instances of invasive surgery.
Selecting patients for active surveillance is important. Patients that present with high-risk features on ultrasound or biopsy results are typically not candidates for active surveillance. Identifying patients for active surveillance should be a shared decision between a patient and their doctor. This should be a decision reached after having a thorough conversation where the patient feels comfortable following this treatment plan.
30 Stories in 30 Days
September is Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month. For the next 4 weeks, we will post stories written by thyroid cancer survivors, caregivers and friends for our 30 Stories in 30 Days campaign. We hope their perspectives and insight will help others along their journey.