In terms of the diagnostic process, there are many inequities within the healthcare field: between ethnicities, races, sexes, and more. For example, Healio shares that, despite similar prevalences between sexes, females are around 4x more likely to receive a papillary thyroid cancer diagnosis than males. This is even true when symptoms associated with this cancer are absent. Thus, researchers suggest that monitoring patients for symptoms, including lumps in the neck, is crucial. Interested in learning more? Check out the full study findings in JAMA Internal Medicine.
As the name suggests, thyroid cancer forms in the thyroid, or a gland at the base of the throat which produces hormones. Altogether, our thyroid normally plays a role in blood pressure, body temperature, weight, and heart rate management. However, when abnormal cells begin growing out of control, this cancer forms. It is often discovered through thyroid ultrasounds. Risk factors include radiation exposure, having a family history of thyroid cancer, or having genetic conditions such as multiple endocrine neoplasia types 2A or 2B. There are also different forms of thyroid cancer. Papillary thyroid cancer is the most common form, while rarer forms include follicular, anaplastic, or medullary thyroid cancer. Symptoms include:
- A lump in the neck
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing
- Hoarseness or changes in voice
- Chronic cough
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
- Pain or swelling in the neck and throat
- Shortness of breath while lying flat
Within the research, researchers sought to understand the incidence and prevalence of papillary thyroid cancer between sexes. To do so, researchers sourced data from the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program-9 Registry. Altogether, the data spanned over a 42-year period, with additional tumor size data spanning a 34-year period. Findings included:
- As expected, the papillary form of this cancer was the most prevalent form. In examining diagnoses made over a 7-year period, approximately 90% of diagnoses were attributed to papillary thyroid cancer.
- Over time, the prevalence of cancer diagnoses increased, with 2013 marking the highest number of cases. Since then, however, researchers acknowledge that females still receive a diagnosis 4x more than males.
- Males and females were diagnosed at a more equal ratio in regards to lethal and rare cancers. For example, the more lethal the cancer, the more equal the diagnostic process.
- Despite females being diagnosed at a higher rate, the lethality was fairly equal. Both sexes were just as likely to die of this cancer (rare or common).
Despite the gender inequity not being present in mortality, more needs to be done to improve the diagnostic process for males so that they can receive earlier treatment and better outcomes as well.