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New Imaging Technique Improves Detection and Treatment of Thyroid Cancer

By EmpowHER
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Thyroid cancer is considered one of the most curable forms of cancers according to the American Cancer Society. Thanks to a new imaging approach from German researchers, the treatment and detection of this type of cancer is getting even better.

When doctors treat thyroid cancer, in addition to surgical removal of the thyroid and traditional radiation therapy, doctors inject small amounts of radioactive iodine into the patient. Iodine specifically hones in on thyroid cells in the body, and the radioactive iodine kills any remaining thyroid tumor cells in the neck or those that may have spread to nearby lymph nodes or other parts of the body.

Researchers at the University of Eriangen-Nurnberg in Germany have now employed radioactive iodine in combination with a high tech imaging tool called SPECT-CT as a way to see where the cancer has spread while simultaneously providing anti-cancer treatment.

SPECT imaging uses small amounts of radioactive tracers to identify abnormally active cells, such as tumor cells, in the body. CT imaging provides very detailed, X-ray like images. Using a combination of the two camera systems shows malignant cell activity mapped and overlaid onto a precise anatomical location.

“Normal thyroid tissue as well as residual cancer cells concentrate iodine. Performed after ingestion of radioiodine, SPECT-CT (imaging) provides three-dimensional images of the distribution of the radionuclide in the human body and is therefore used for staging this type of cancer,” according to Torsten Kuvwert, MD, co-author of the article.

Using the imaging information early on to find out if and how much the cancer has spread lets doctors know how much follow up radiation therapy is needed for a patient. “Incorporated at first treatment, SPECT-CT allows us to better stratify patients into treatment groups,” said Kuvwert.

The SPECT-CT approach led to treatment adjustments in 35% of the patients evaluated in the study. “With SPECT-CT imaging, we were able to determine tumor spread much earlier than before,” said Daniela Schmidt, MD, another co-author of the article. “Earlier detection will lead to earlier individualized treatment of this potentially deadly cancer.”

Thyroid cancer is highly treatable if diagnosed early, but the prognosis becomes poorer if the tumor is large and the cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body. The American Cancer Society estimates that nearly 40,000 new cases of thyroid cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2009 with 75% of those cases occurring in women.

Article Link:
Molecular imaging helps in diagnosis of thyroid cancer, Jan 2009.

Related Links:
MedTV article: “Thyroid Cancer Staging,” 2006. Includes information on imaging.

SNM, “Molecular Imaging Terms,”

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