September 2012 Declared Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25) sponsored a resolution that was unanimously adopted by Senate on Tuesday, June 19 to designate September 2012 as Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month in Pennsylvania. David Goldenberg, M.D., F.A.C.S., professor of surgery and oncology, director of head and neck surgery and associate director of surgical services, Penn State Hershey Medical Center, Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute, first met with Scarnati in April 2012 to discuss how to raise awareness about thyroid cancer, one of the fastest-growing form of cancer.

“I approached Senator Scarnati in order to make him aware and discuss the alarming rate of thyroid cancer in the state,” said Goldenberg. “I urged him to help us with public awareness and requested he commission a Commonwealth-wide study looking at some potential etiological factors for the rise in thyroid cancer in the state.”

Scarnati, a thyroid cancer survivor, said it was important to approve the measure in June before the Senate recesses for the summer.

"The chances of being diagnosed with thyroid cancer have risen in recent years and have more than doubled since 1990," said Scarnati. "The good news is that it is highly treatable when detected early. It's my hope that 'Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month' will get the word out on how important it is to see a doctor if symptoms occur."

It is the most common endocrine cancer, occurring about three times more often in women than men. The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be approximately 56,460 new cases of thyroid cancer in the U.S. in 2012.

At the Cancer Institute, we offer state-of-the-art multidisciplinary care for thyroid cancer patients, including a team of some of the top thyroid cancer surgeons, endocrinologists, and nuclear medicine physicians in the country who help patients manage their thyroid cancer. The Cancer Institute also has ongoing clinical, translational and basic science thyroid cancer research which may benefit current and future patients.

Goldenberg has conducted multiple studies looking at outcomes and risk factors of thyroid cancer. He recently published a study about the characteristics of thyroid cancer in the Three mile Island vicinity.

Increased risks for thyroid cancer can include exposure to radiation (therapeutic and accidental) a family history and diet that is low in iodine. Thyroid cancer usually presents with no symptoms. A painless lump or nodule in the front of the neck is typically incidentally discovered by a primary care physician or OBGYN during a routine physical exam. Some are discovered incidentally during an imaging study performed for an unrelated issue. Later symptoms may include hoarseness, swollen lymph nodes, difficulty swallowing or breathing, and pain in the neck or throat.

Treatment typically involves surgically removal of the thyroid followed by radioiodine treatment. The prognosis for thyroid cancer, especially if found early, is excellent.