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 screenings, such as thyroid examinations.