The medical community hasn't yet determined what exactly causes papillary thyroid cancer (also known as papillary thyroid carcinoma), so it can't fully be prevented. But there are some ways to reduce your risk of developing papillary thyroid cancer.
People with a Normal Risk for Thyroid Cancer
If you don't have any of the common risk factors associated with the disease, there is really only one way to potentially prevent papillary thyroid cancer—reducing radiation exposure during childhood.
Radiation therapy (through x-ray tests, for example), may be necessary for your child if he or she has a serious illness. But if these tests aren't totally necessary for your child, it may be best not to have them performed. Generally, though, routine x-rays do not cause the significant radiation exposure that will increase the risk of thyroid cancer (in the absence of external radiation therapy).
People with a High Risk for Thyroid Cancer
If you are a high-risk patient, there are a couple ways that you may reduce—or even eliminate—your odds of developing thyroid cancer.
The conditions that increase risk of thyroid cancer include a history of childhood head and neck radiation, total body irradiation for bone marrow transplantation, family history of thyroid carcinoma or thyroid cancer syndrome (e.g. Cowden syndrome, familial polyposis, or Carney comlex).
Researchers have pinpointed a number of gene mutations associated with papillary thyroid cancer. If you have one of these gene mutations, you may opt to have surgery to remove your thyroid before a thyroid cancer diagnosis is ever made. This may prevent thyroid cancer from developing. Although research is continuing, there is not an established genetic test that you could get to see if you are at risk to develop papillary thyroid cancer. This genetic testing exists for another thyroid cancer type, medullary thyroid cancer, which can be familial. With this genetic testing (for RET oncogene), relatives of affected patients can be tested to identify this certain mutation.
If you live near a nuclear power plant, you are at risk for encountering potentially harmful levels of radiation. If you live within 10 miles of a nuclear power plant, you may be able to obtain a potassium iodide medication. If a plant emergency occurs, taking this medication may reduce the effects of radiation on your body and help prevent thyroid cancer.
In the great majority of cases, papillary thyroid cancer cannot be prevented. The best thing you can do is understand the symptoms of papillary thyroid cancer and seek treatment as early as possible. Papillary thyroid carcinoma is very treatable. The sooner you receive proper care, the sooner you can resume a healthy way of life.