The task force reviewed studies on the benefits and harms of screening and treatment for thyroid cancer and found that for patients asymptomatic for the disease, the harms of screening and treatment are likely to be greater than the benefits. These harms can include permanent surgical damage to thyroid function and to the nerves that control speaking and breathing.
"While there is very little evidence of the benefits of screening for thyroid cancer, there is considerable evidence of the significant harms of treatment," said USPSTF member Karina Davison, Ph.D., M.A.Sc., in a news release.(www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org) "And in the places where universal screening has been tried, it hasn't helped people live longer, healthier lives."
Screening asymptomatic people for thyroid cancer will find many benign thyroid nodules, but some of those benign nodules can only be properly diagnosed after surgically removing them. Overall, this can lead to more harm than good.
Trying to find an asymptomatic thyroid cancer that is likely to go on to cause significant harm if not treated at that time (compared to waiting until symptoms develop and then treating it) is extremely difficult. A bit like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
Perhaps concentrating the resources on those whom have symptoms, and working out how best to treat them, continues to be the more sensible way to go.