Thyroid Cancer Screening Basics: When should you Screen for Thyroid Cancer?

Thyroid cancer is cancer that starts in the thyroid gland. Thyroid cancer screening in Singapore is not routinely performed.

However, those with certain risk factors like genetic syndromes or a personal history of cancer are advised to undergo screening. The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped gland that sits in the lower part of your neck, just below your Adam’s apple.

The main job of the thyroid gland is to make thyroid hormones. This hormone helps the body use energy, keep warm, and keep the brain, heart, muscles, and other organs working as they should.

Most thyroid cancers are found when a person has a thyroidectomy (surgery to remove the thyroid gland) for a benign (non-cancerous) condition. However, some people with thyroid cancer do not have surgery for a benign condition, and their cancer is found because they have symptoms or abnormal test results not related to a benign condition.

Less often, cancer may be found when looking at the neck during a physical exam by a health care provider or on imaging tests done for another reason. Most papillary and follicular thyroid cancers can be cured with surgery and radioactive iodine therapy.

Anaplastic thyroid cancer and medullary thyroid cancer are generally more difficult to treat. Treatment options depend on the type of thyroid cancer and how far it has spread when it is diagnosed.

Surgery is usually the first treatment for almost all types of thyroid cancer. If the surgeon removes all of the cancer during surgery, no further treatment is needed in most cases.

If all of the cancer cannot be removed or if it has spread to other parts of the body, additional treatments (such as radioactive iodine therapy or external beam radiation therapy) may be recommended after surgery.

People with certain types of cancers that cannot be removed completely by surgery may benefit from taking thyroxine (a synthetic form of one of the hormones produced by the thyroid gland) daily for life after treatment to try to control their disease and lower their chances of having their cancer come back. Taking thyroxine will not cure their disease but may help keep it from coming back or progressing.

When should you Screen for Thyroid Cancer, and who should be Screened for it?

Thyroid cancer can occur at any age, but it is most common in women in their 40s or 50s and men in their 60s or 70s. Women are 2.9 times more likely than men to develop thyroid cancer, and the risk increases with age.

There is no routine screening for thyroid cancer in the general population. However, people who have been treated for head and neck cancer with radiation therapy have an increased risk of developing thyroid cancer and should be screened with neck ultrasounds and/or fine-needle aspiration biopsies on a regular basis.

People with a family history of certain genetic syndromes (such as familial adenomatous polyposis or Gardner syndrome) are also at an increased risk of developing thyroid cancer and should be screened with neck ultrasounds and/or fine-needle aspiration biopsies regularly.

Should I see an ENT or Endocrinologist for Thyroid Cancer?

Usually, the first step in diagnosing thyroid cancer is to see your GP. They will ask about your symptoms and carry out a physical examination.

This usually involves feeling your neck to check for any lumps or swellings. Your GP may also arrange for you to have a blood test.

This is to check for a high thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) level. If your TSH level is normal, it’s very unlikely you have thyroid cancer.

However, if your TSH level is high, it’s possible you have an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) or another condition that needs to be treated. In this case, you may be referred to an endocrinologist (a doctor who specializes in treating conditions that affect the glands).

An endocrinologist will be able to confirm whether you have hyperthyroidism or another condition by carrying out further tests. If these tests suggest you may have thyroid cancer, you may be referred to an ENT (ear, nose, and throat) specialist for further investigation.

An ENT specialist will use a fine needle aspirate (FNA) biopsy to take a sample of cells from your thyroid gland. The sample of cells will then be examined under a microscope to check for cancerous cells.

If cancerous cells are found, you’ll need treatment. The type of treatment you need will depend on the stage of your cancer. If the cancer is at an early stage and hasn’t spread outside your thyroid gland, you may only need surgery to remove the part of your gland containing the cancerous cells.

However, if cancer has spread to other parts of your body, you may need a combination of surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy. Your GP or endocrinologist can refer you to an experienced thyroid cancer specialist for further advice and treatment if necessary.

How can you cope with a Diagnosis of Thyroid Cancer?

A diagnosis of thyroid cancer after your thyroid cancer screening can be a shock. You may feel shocked, overwhelmed, and worried about what the future holds. It’s perfectly natural to feel this way.

Cancer can be a very frightening word. But it’s important to remember that most people with thyroid cancer will go on to live long and healthy lives.

There are many ways you can cope with a diagnosis of thyroid cancer, both emotionally and practically speaking. First, it’s important to get accurate information about your condition.

This can help you to understand what thyroid cancer is and how it will affect you. You can find information about thyroid cancer from your GP, specialist nurse, or local cancer charity.

It’s also important to talk to someone about how you’re feeling. Your family and friends can be a great source of support, but it may also help to talk to other people who have been through similar experiences.

There are many support groups for people with thyroid cancer, both online and offline. These can be a great way to share your experiences and feelings with others who understand what you’re going through.

Practical considerations, such as work, money, and transport, can also cause anxiety when you’re diagnosed with cancer. But there are ways to ease these worries. For example, your employer must make reasonable adjustments to help you stay at work if you have cancer. And there are several benefits available to help with the costs of treatment, travel, and childcare.

Cancer can be a difficult experience, but there is support available to help you through it. You don’t have to cope with it alone.

Closing Thoughts

Like other types of cancer, early detection of thyroid cancer is important for the best possible outcome. If you have any symptoms that could be related to thyroid cancer, it’s important to see your doctor right to discuss thyroid cancer screening.

You should also talk to your doctor about your risk factors for thyroid cancer and whether you should have regular neck ultrasounds and/or fine-needle aspiration biopsies. These tests can help find thyroid cancer at an early stage when it is more likely to be curable.

At the Sinus & Allergy Specialist Centre, our board-certified ENT doctors are experienced in diagnosing and treating thyroid cancer. We offer a full range of ENT services, from routine care to the most complex procedures.

Please call or WhatsApp us at +65 9856 8391or request an appointment online to make an appointment. You can also visit us at;

Allergy & Sinus ENT Specialist Centre

Head & Neck Surgery Singapore

321 Joo Chiat Place #05-01

Parkway East Specialist Hospital  Singapore 427990

+65 9856 8391


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