75% of Canadians diagnosed with thyroid cancer don’t need aggressive treatment, new study suggests

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Overdiagnosis likely due to improvements in imaging technology and overtesting, say researchers

(CBC News) — Three out of four Canadians diagnosed with thyroid cancer don’t require the aggressive treatment they get, an overdiagnosis likely due to the increased use of ultrasound imaging, suggests a new study published by University of Calgary researchers.

Doctors Dawnelle Topstad and James Dickinson say frequent thyroid testing, combined with improvements in imaging technology, are leading doctors to classify “clinically unimportant lesions” as cancer.

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“Doing extra testing finds extra things, even when they’re not important things,” Dickinson, a professor at the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary, said in an interview with CBC Calgary News at 6.

“If doctors find small thyroid cysts, they may diagnose it as a possible cancer even though the cysts would never grow, invade or spread.”

The study — posted online by the Canadian Medical Association Journal on Monday — finds that thyroid cancer diagnosis rates have jumped in recent years, while death rates have remained stable, even though treatment protocols have remained unchanged.  (…)

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