Thyroid cancer is a more common disease than you might realize. More than 44,000 people are diagnosed with this type of cancer annually in the United States. Usually, when thyroid cancer is detected, it is treated by surgically removing the thyroid. The good news is that most people with thyroid cancer survive and fully recover.
Once the cancer has been brought under control, many patients are often treated with radioactive iodine to kill off any remnants of cancerous tissue. But here’s some health advice worth taking note of in regards to radioactive iodine treatments. According to a recent study, there’s a wide variation from hospital to hospital in the percentage of thyroid cancer patients getting radioactive iodine.
Researchers report this health news in the latest edition of the “Journal of the American Medical Association.” To determine how radioactive iodine is being used throughout hospitals in the U.S., researchers looked at information from the U.S. National Cancer Database on nearly 190,000 thyroid cancer patients treated at 981 hospitals between 1990 and 2008.
During that period, the use of radioactive iodine increased from about 40% of patients in 1990 to 56% of patients in 2008. The researchers found that patients who had “low-risk” disease (stage 1) were less likely to receive radioactive iodine than patients with advanced thyroid cancer (stage 4). People with stage-2 and stage-3 cancers were just as likely as those with stage-4 tumors to receive the treatment.
Some other interesting facts revealed themselves when the researchers further analyzed their data. For example, the likelihood of receiving radioactive iodine also had a lot to do with where people were treated. Overall, about 37 % of women under age 45 with stage-1 tumors received radioactive iodine. But that ranged from 0% at some hospitals to more than 90% at others.
Unfortunately, there was an equally large margin for high-risk cases. For a man over age 45 with stage-3 or stage-4 disease, the odds of getting radioactive iodine ranged from 25% at some hospitals to 90% at others. A discrepancy this large at this stage of thyroid cancer progression is worrisome, as radioactive iodine is considered the best way to stave off the disease. In cases such as this, current medical guidelines do recommend that doctors use the radioactive treatments.
Thyroid cancer patients should get their doctor’s advice about timely and proactive treatment.