(12/17/12) - A new cancer screening tool may spare thousands of people from
having unnecessary surgeries. Thyroid cancer is the fastest growing cancer in
the united states. Biopsies can catch the problem before it's too late, but many
times the results are inconclusive. That means patients might have to have their
thyroids removed, even if there's no cancer.
Ferne Berger's life was turned upside down when an ultrasound showed a nodule on her thyroid gland.
She had a biopsy, but her results were inconclusive. "The fear of them being malignant was certainly very scary."
Half a million nodules are biopsied each year, and Dr. Paul Aoun says up to 30 percent of the time results come back inconclusive.
Aoun says the traditional next step for those patients has been to remove all or part of the thyroid. "Only 25 percent end up having cancer."
Now, if a biopsy comes back inconclusive, doctors have a new tool to test the sample. The gene expression classifier test measures 142 gene patterns, including those present in thyroid cancer.
Aoun says the screening can reclassify nodules as benign or possibly malignant. "That could result in saving about half the patients proceeding to unnecessary surgery."
A study showed the test is 94 percent accurate in re-classifying inconclusive results as benign. Another study showed the test helped reduce surgery rates by 90 percent.
Ferne's results showed her nodule was benign and she did not need surgery. "It was a big weight off my shoulders."
Studies show incorporating the classifier test into the diagnosis process has resulted in higher quality of life for patients and lower costs to the healthcare system.
ABC12 Main Station