Thyroid cancer is the most common endocrine malignancy globally, with over half a million new cases diagnosed in 2018.
According to Dr Khalsa Zahran al Nabhani, consultant for nuclear medicine and head of Nuclear Medicine Department and Molecular Imaging Centre at The Royal Hospital, the annual report on national cancer registry of 2017 revealed that nearly 200 new cases of thyroid cancer are diagnosed every year in Oman.
“It appears to be the second most common female cancer in Oman at present. Globally, thyroid cancer is more common in females, and correspondingly it was found to be more common among Omani women. Though thyroid cancer is mostly an adult malignancy, unfortunately a few children are also diagnosed with it in Oman,” Dr Khalsa said.
International data has revealed an increasing trend in thyroid cancer incidence in American, Asian, European, Oceanic and Nordic countries.
“In addition, a recently published national data from 1996 to 2017 has reported an increasing trend of thyroid cancer among Omanis. This incremental trend seemed similar to the worldwide reported data. It is uncertain why there is a significantly increasing tendency in the incidence of thyroid cancer worldwide. It is possible that the increasing usage of neck ultrasonography, guided FNA and other radio-imaging techniques lead to an early and accurate diagnosis,” said Dr Khalsa.
Thyroid cancer types include differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC), medullary cancer and anaplastic thyroid cancer. The vast majority (90 per cent) of thyroid cancer is differentiated thyroid cancer. DTC usually responds very well to treatment and has excellent outcome and prognosis, with high prospect for cure.
Over the last decade, there have been many improvements in the diagnosis and treatment of thyroid cancer. In Oman, patients are treated as per the latest international guidelines.
“The most common presentation of thyroid cancer is asymptomatic thyroid nodules in the neck. These are often discovered on routine clinical examination or incidentally found on ultrasound or other radiological scans of the neck done for some other unrelated reasons. In a few cases, people themselves or relatives may notice a neck swelling. The initial step of thyroid cancer diagnosis is to take a small biopsy from the concerned thyroid nodule using a small needle. This is an outpatient procedure, called fine needle aspiration (FNA). Once thyroid cancer is diagnosed by FNA, thyroid surgery and radioiodine therapy are the main treatment approaches.
“In Oman, radioiodine therapy is provided by The Royal Hospital and Sultan Qaboos University Hospital. Around 1,000 patients with thyroid cancer have been treated till now,” said Dr Khalsa.
“The emphasis on public awareness about thyroid cancer is important to ensure early diagnosis of the disease.”