Ian Hay Addresses “Overdiagnosis” of Thyroid Cancer at the ATA Meeting

Dr. Ian Hay, a renowned expert on thyroid cancer from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, gave a talk entitled “Changing Attitudes to the Most Common Endocrine Malignancy, T1 PTC” in one of the opening sessions of the 86th annual meeting of the American Thyroid Association in Denver Colorado. The meeting is being held from September 21st through the 25th, and is attended by thyroid experts from all over the world. Dr. Hay’s talk was covered on the Healio website, which gave a summary of what he said.

According to the article, Dr. Hay stated:

“The major burden of overdiagnosis has fallen on women”… “Patients, particularly women, need protection from the harms of unnecessary diagnosis.”

The article from Healio also quotes  Dr. Hay  as stating “smaller thyroid cancers will most likely never result in symptoms or death.”  Within the thyroid cancer medical community, Dr. Hay is probably best known for his research demonstrating a lack of beneficial impact for radioactive iodine ablation on low risk thyroid cancer.  Studies from the Mayo Clinic found that patients with a MACIS score of less than 6 do not benefit from RAI ablation in terms of  their survival or their likelihood of experiencing a recurrence.

A few doctors attending the ATA meeting expressed an apparent dissatisfaction with the word “overdiagnosis” through their Twitter accounts. However, it is uncertain what impact these opinions will ultimately have within the ATA.  One of the motives for the recent reclassification of non-invasive encapsulated  follicular variant to NIFTP was to reduce the psychological impact of a cancer diagnosis on patients.  The issues surrounding patient distress from thyroid cancer have received considerable attention in recent medical literature.