SEOUL, Dec. 15 (Korea Bizwire) – The number of Koreans treated for thyroid cancer soared in the 2000s, increasing by an annual average rate of 23.7 percent from 1999 to 2011. In 2011, 44,234 patients underwent thyroid cancer surgery, that is about 81 people in every 100,000 – a rate that is more than ten times the global average.
Such abnormal figures stirred controversy in 2014, with experts criticizing the over-diagnosis of the condition giving the country the title of “the world’s highest prevalence rate for thyroid cancer”, despite a lack of clear evidence for why the phenomenon was occurring, and an absence of typical factors such as nuclear accidents or natural disasters.
Thyroid cancer is among the least deadly types of cancers. The five-year survival rate – the percentage of those that survive five years after the initial diagnosis – is 99.9 percent for all patients. Given these facts, this “epidemic” of thyroid cancer was also seen as an unprecedented phenomenon in medical circles around the world.
A large number of medical experts pointed to the over-screening of the condition through thyroid ultrasonography at routine medical checkups, with medical practitioners detecting small, harmless tumors that typically do not affect an individual’s health.
However, because it’s impossible to determine whether a tumor is lethal or innocuous, when they’re detected, doctors frequently recommend treatment.
Following the criticism, instances of patients undergoing thyroid ultrasonography started declining, and the number of thyroid cancer surgeries also dropped, from 37,162 in 2014 to 28,214 in 2015.
The Health Insurance Review & Assessment Service expects the figure to settle at a little over 20,000 this year, with the number standing at 19,732 from January to October.
By Kevin Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org)