Can thyroid cancer be prevented?
Most people with thyroid cancer have no known risk factors that they can change, so there is no sure way to prevent most cases of this disease.
Radiation exposure, especially in childhood, is a known risk factor for thyroid cancer. Because of this, doctors no longer use radiation treatment for minor diseases. Imaging tests such as x-rays and CT scans also expose children to radiation, but at much lower doses. If there is an increased risk of thyroid cancer from these tests is likely to be small, but to be safe, children should not have these tests unless they are clearly needed.
Blood tests can be done to look for the gene changes found in familial medullary thyroid cancer (FMTC). Because of this, most cases of FMTC can be prevented or treated early by surgery to remove the thyroid gland. Once the disease is found in a family, the rest of the family members can be tested for the gene change.
If you have a family history of MTC, you should see a doctor who knows about the latest progress in genetic counseling and testing for this disease. Taking out the thyroid gland in children who carry the abnormal gene will most likely prevent a cancer that might be fatal.
Last Medical Review: 05/09/2013
Last Revised: 02/11/2014