Thyroid Disease: Better Diagnosis Is Key To Better Health

Nodular thyroid disease is more common than you might think. There's a five to ten percent lifetime risk of developing a palpable nodule and over one-third of all adult women have at least one thyroid nodule.

Fortunately, new guidelines for diagnosing and managing thyroid nodules increase the odds that more Americans will get the life-saving treatment they need.

The guidelines were released by The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE).

"The challenge facing physicians is distinguishing the benign nodules, which are most common, from malignant nodules, which are less common, without subjecting the patient to unnecessary procedures, risks and costs," said Stanley Feld, M.D., chairman of the AACE guidelines committee.

"By following these guidelines we can increase our accuracy in diagnosing malignant thyroid nodules while decreasing the need for surgery four-fold."

According to AACE guidelines, several new technological advances can be used to diagnose malignant thyroid nodules, but the selection of appropriate procedures for the individual patient is crucial. Not all studies are necessary for all patients and some may result in unnecessary sugery.

Fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy is believed to be the most effective method available for differentiating between benign and malignant nodules. The AACE advocates FNA biopsy for all thyroid nodules where there is a significant possibility of thyroid cancer. However, the potential benefit of FNA is dependent on the skill of the physician performing the biopsy and the experience of cytopathologists interpreting the speciments.

Guidelines for these and other procedures, says Feld, will provide better outcomes without creating a burden on the health care system.

Feld recommends that older women, who are at a greater risk for thyroid disease, should have a thyroid test as part of their regular exam.

AACE is a professional medical organization consisting of 2,500 practicing clinical endocrinologists devoted to furthering patient care in the field of clinical endocrinology. Additional information about AACE, thyroid disease and its treatment, may be found on AACE's web site: or call 1-800-542-6687. (NAPSI)

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