Mammography and Thyroid Cancer

Chances are you may know someone who has had breast cancer, prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, or even lung cancer. Perhaps you yourself have had skin cancer, which is the most common form of cancer. But you may not be as familiar with thyroid cancer, which claims the lives of about 1,690 people each year.

The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located under the Adam’s apple in the front part of the neck. It is responsible for producing hormones that regulate heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and weight. Approximately 44,670 Americans are diagnosed with thyroid cancer annually. It is one of the least deadly cancers with a five-year survival rate of about 97 percent.

Recent news stories have linked the small amount of radiation received during a mammogram to an increase in the likelihood of developing thyroid cancer. According to the American College of Radiology and Society of Breast Imaging, this concern is not supported by scientific literature and patients are encouraged not to put off necessary breast imaging care. The amount of radiation to the thyroid from a mammogram is extremely low and equivalent to 30 minutes of natural background radiation that everyone receives from natural sources. The thyroid also is not exposed to the X-ray beam that is directed at the breast during a mammogram and receives only a minuscule amount of scattered X-rays.

The causes of thyroid cancer are not clear and, because most people diagnosed with the disease do not have any known risk factors, the disease cannot be prevented5. Some risk factors, however, may make a person more likely to develop thyroid cancer. These include being a woman, eating a diet low in iodine, having a family history of the disease, and having had head or neck radiation treatments in childhood.

As with any cancer, it is important to detect thyroid cancer as early as possible. While the disease usually does not cause any symptoms in the early stages, as it progresses thyroid cancer can cause a lump on the neck, voice changes such as hoarseness, problems swallowing or breathing, constant neck or throat pain, and swollen lymph nodes in the neck. Make an appointment with your doctor if you notice any unusual symptoms. Click here for more information about thyroid cancer.