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Thyroid Diseases

Thyroid Cancer Risk Based on Family History

10/05/2006

Question:

My sister was just diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer. She’s 19 and our family has a history of thyroid problems. Should I (or all of us) be tested to see if we have some sort of gene that indicates we`re at risk? What sorts of tests should be done and what kind of specialist should I see for this?

Answer:

The risk that there is a common gene being passed in your family that leads to thyroid cancer depends on the specific type of thyroid cancer in your sister.  Medullary thyroid cancer is relatively uncommon, but is clearly linked in many cases to genes which can be tested for.  Papillary thyroid cancer can also run in families and sometimes is associated with other genetic syndromes but most commonly is not associated with known gene mutations that can be tested for. 

Having your sister evaluated by a genetics specialist would be a good way to start. If a gene cannot be identified as the cause in your sister, annual exams/blood tests/ultrasound would be a reasonable approach for concerned family members.

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Response by:

Jeffrey J Sussman, MD Jeffrey J Sussman, MD
Associate Professor of Surgery, Chief, Division of Surgical Oncology
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati