According to the National Cancer Institute, there are about 56,000 new cases of thyroid cancer in the US each year. Females are more likely to have thyroid cancer at a ratio of 3:1. Thyroid cancer can occur in any age group. The most common age group is after age 30 and its aggressiveness increases significantly in older patients. A thorough extra oral examination by a dental professional can lead to the early detection of abnormalities in the head and neck region, including thyroid cancer.
Thyroid cancer does not always cause symptoms; often, the first sign of thyroid cancer is an enlarged thyroid nodule. Other thyroid cancer signs and symptoms include a hoarse voice, neck pain, and enlarged lymph nodules. 75% of the population will have thyroid nodules, however the vast majority are benign. Young people usually don’t have thyroid nodules, but as people age, they’re more likely to develop a nodule. By the time we are 80, 90% of us will have at least one nodule.
Fewer than 1% of all thyroid nodules are malignant (cancerous). This is good news because thyroid cancer is a very curable and treatable disese if diagnosed eraly. Treatment varies according to the specific type of thyroid cancer you have.
A thorough extraoral/intraoral examination is part of the standard of care that should not be neglected by dental professionals. Dental professionals can save lives through early detection dental screening, such as thyroid examination.