Since opening in 2015, the Thyroid Unit at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) has received over 1,200 patients. Dr. Mohamed Salem Al Hassan, Chair of Surgical Oncology at HMC and Chair of the Thyroid Multidisciplinary Team says this figure includes 681 benign and 549 malignant cases, and he noted there has been an increase in malignant thyroid cancer cases diagnosed each year since the Unit was established.
“From 2015 to 2019, we recorded a total of 549 newly diagnosed cases of malignant thyroid cancer, 20 percent of which were Qataris and 80 percent non-Qataris. This signals an increase in patients diagnosed with thyroid cancer each year. It is noteworthy that the incidence of thyroid cancer in the State of Qatar is similar to that of other developed countries,” said Dr. Al Hassan.
Dr. Al Hassan says when the Thyroid Unit was established in 2015, it cared for 101 patients (comprising 58 malignant and 43 benign cases). Five years on, patient volumes have quadrupled with 406 patients received in 2019.Dr. Al Hassan says there are four main types of thyroid cancer, with papillary carcinoma being the most common and occurring more frequently in women.
“In Qatar, thyroid cancer is the second most prevalent cancer among women, after breast cancer. Papillary thyroid carcinoma is the predominant histological type of thyroid cancer seen here in Qatar, followed by follicular carcinoma. Papillary thyroid cancer is a slow-growing cancer that can usually be cured, unlike follicular carcinoma which is typically a bit more malignant (aggressive). Follicular thyroid cancer occurs in a slightly older age group than papillary cancer and is also less common in children,” notes Dr. Al Hassan.
The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck, below the Adam's apple. The thyroid gland produces the hormones thyroxine (also called T4) and triiodothyronine (also called T3). These hormones play a role in certain bodily functions, including body temperature, mood, pulse rate, and digestion. Dr. Al Hassan says the thyroid gland, through the hormones it produces, influences almost all metabolic processes in the body.
While thyroid cancer is more common in people who have a history of exposure to high doses of radiation, have a family history of thyroid cancer, and are older than 40 years of age, many people who get the disease have few or no known risk factors. Dr. Al Hassan says most thyroid problems can be managed well if properly diagnosed and treated early.
“The treatments for thyroid cancer include surgery, radioactive iodine treatment, and thyroid hormone replacement therapy. However, very rear cases will receive external beam radiation therapy and chemotherapy,” said Dr. Al Hassan.