Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced new actions to address higher rates of thyroid cancer on Staten Island. On Staten Island specifically, a State Department of Health study found that the overdiagnosis of thyroid cancer was determined to be a significant factor in elevated incidence rates. According to DOH and the US Preventative Services Task Force, unlike other cancers, screening for thyroid cancer is not recommended in adults without signs or symptoms of the disease because often the harms of treatment, when not necessary, outweigh the benefits. Based on the results of the study, the Governor announced a new training and education forum for area medical professionals and healthcare providers on best practices for thyroid cancer screening. In addition, the Governor announced the availability of $675,000 to fund a regional Community Cancer Prevention in Action Award, a DOH initiative that supports local cancer prevention and risk reduction interventions in multiple communities throughout New York State.
"New York has taken aggressive steps to raise awareness about early detection for most cancers, but in some cases early screening for thyroid cancer can lead to unnecessary treatments that cause more harm than good," Governor Cuomo said. "These comprehensive efforts to raise awareness about the best practices for cancer screenings will help healthcare providers on Staten Island and across the state avoid the potential dangers of overdiagnosing patients and keep New Yorkers safe."
New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, "Screening for many cancers such as breast, cervical, and colon cancers allows for early detection and the benefit of early treatment. However, for some cancers screening in those who aren't symptomatic can do more harm than good. Thyroid cancer is one of these cases, as screening for it often reveals a diagnosis without clinical benefit. By raising awareness about the overuse of thyroid cancer screening, we can limit the harms associated with treatment."
Thyroid screening may be appropriate for people with a higher risk due to such factors as a family history of medullary thyroid cancer. Thyroid cancer can also be diagnosed incidentally, during surgery or diagnostic imaging or testing for other conditions.
Thyroid screening can often involve a neck ultrasound, followed by needle biopsy and possible surgery and radiation treatment if there are abnormal findings. The harms of thyroid cancer treatment include the need for lifetime thyroid hormone replacement, possible surgical damage to the nerves that help with speaking and breathing, and possible exposure to radiation treatment. These harms often outweigh the benefits.
The Governor has also directed the Department of Health to determine best practices for cancer screening programs statewide. In Staten Island, the State will partner with Greater New York Hospital Association, the Staten Island PPS, the Medical Society of the State of New York, Staten Island University Hospital and Richmond University Medical Center, to hold a training and informational forum for healthcare providers.
Department researchers investigated this area of Staten Island because the borough had the highest rate of all cancers combined in New York City based on 2011-2015 data. When cancer types were evaluated independently however, thyroid cancer was the only cancer that stood out as unusually high compared to other areas of New York State. Thus, thyroid cancer was reviewed in further detail using information from the New York State Cancer Registry.
A meeting with New York State Department of Health officials to discuss findings and answer questions will be held on Staten Island this evening, October 29, at 7pm:
Williamson Theater, CUNY College of Staten Island
2800 Victory Blvd, Staten Island, NY 10314
In addition to the Staten Island (Richmond County) study area, investigations of elevated cancer incidence were selected for further study in Centereach, Farmingville, Selden (Suffolk County); East Buffalo/Western Cheektowaga (Erie County); and Warren County. The goals of the studies were to further understand factors contributing to higher rates of cancer in certain regions of the state and to better inform cancer prevention and screening efforts statewide and promote access to high-quality care. Examining potential trends in these regions aids the Department in determining which cancer prevention interventions to promote and which diagnostic and treatment services would be most beneficial when connecting patients with resources.
All cases of cancer diagnosed or treated in New York are reported by law by their healthcare provider to the New York State Cancer Registry. New York's Cancer Registry was established in 1940 as one of the first cancer registries in the country and has since earned many accolades, including being designated by the CDC as a Registry of Excellence and receiving Gold Certification by the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries for its completeness and accuracy. The regional cancer studies were based on data reported to the Cancer Registry and augmented with data from other sources.
Demographics and socioeconomic status of an area, behavioral and lifestyle factors such as smoking, and the occupational and industrial history of each area were considered. DOH also consulted with the Department of Environmental Conservation to evaluate sources of data on environmental factors and did not identify any unusual environmental exposures in any of the areas of study. More information is available here.
Staten Island Borough President James Oddo said, "We began our health screenings at Borough Hall as a benefit to the community and to help people who feel they may be at risk to access the resources they needed to get screened. We actively work to be aware of and understand the latest research. In light of NYS Department of Health's cancer study results, we will target First Responders who should be screened for thyroid cancer after exposure to toxins in their work. It is important to note, however, that the thyroid screenings at Borough Hall are done via ultrasound with no radiation. Individuals, with their physicians, should weigh their risks and determine the appropriate time and method for screenings."
Assembly Member Charles D. Fall said, "I want to thank Governor Andrew Cuomo for funding the regional Community Cancer Prevention in Action Award, a Department of Health initiative that supports local cancer prevention and risk reduction interventions throughout New York State. Partnering with Richmond University Medical Center, Staten Island University Hospital, the Medical Society of New York, and the Greater New York Hospital Association will assist in turning a challenge into lifesaving opportunities for all New Yorker's. It is all about prevention, early detection and treatment when discussing victory over this deadly disease."
Assembly Member Michael Reilly said, "I want to thank Governor Cuomo and the New York State Department of Health for taking the initiative to launch this cancer study last year. The results were what we expected, an alarmingly high rate of cancer in our community when compared to those from other parts of the city and state. Now it is our job as elected representatives of this community to take the data and use it as we fight tooth-and-nail in our respective chambers to ensure that Staten Islanders have access to treatment and quality healthcare."