Following exhaustive research, a group of physicians is calling for a change in terminology for a particular type of thyroid tumor long labelled as a cancer. The tumor under investigation, encapsulated follicular variant of papillary thyroid carcinoma, comprises almost one-fifth of all diagnosed thyroid cancers and is a thyroid nodule encapsulated by fibrous tissue. Research shows that lymph node metastases and breaking from the encapsulating tissue is rare in these tumors, posing a cancer risk of less than one percent. Nevertheless, current treatment involves removing the tumor, followed by radioactive iodine ablation (RAI) and a lifetime of ongoing checkups and treatment, even though no threat existed.
Effect of Reclassification
The proposed reclassification will have a tremendous impact on thousands of thyroid cancer patients. Because this tumor is no longer perceived as a malignant threat, it is being relieved of the burdensome term “carcinoma” and all the baggage that word carries, and changing to “noninvasive follicular thyroid neoplasm with papillary-like nuclear features (NIFTP).”
Because the tumor will no longer be classified as a cancer, treatment no longer has to be as aggressive, eliminating the need for surgery, RAI, and continuing checkups. Not only does this relieve patients of a tremendous financial liability, it also provides psychological relief that is perhaps even more important. When any condition carries a reference to cancer, it can place tremendous (and now, in this instance, unnecessary) stress and worry on individuals and their families, especially when a course of aggressive treatment is followed. In the words of president-elect Dr. John C. Morris of the American Thyroid Association, “If it’s not a cancer, let’s not call it a cancer.”
Thyroid Cancer Still a Threat
However, this does mean that thyroid cancer or conditions have been downgraded and can go untreated. Thyroid cancer affects tens of thousands of people nationwide every year, and symptoms need to be diagnosed by qualified endocrinologists. If you even remotely suspect a problem, contact your healthcare provider for an examination.
Thyroid Tumor CT Scan
This call for a change in nomenclature is expected to have a ripple effect throughout the oncology community, initiating changes in terminology for nodules, lesions, and tumors that have long been labeled “cancer” when, in fact, they are not likely to be such. By identifying invasion as the crucial element between malignant and nonmalignant, conditions such as NIFTP (pronounced NIFT-P), can be addressed through less aggressive and less harmful treatment, lifting the burden of cancer from the shoulders of countless individuals.