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Thyroid disease

The UK NSC policy on Thyroid disease screening in adults

Policy

 
Type Adult
Last review completed December 2013
Next review due in 2016/17
Policy recommendation     Systematic population screening programme not recommended
 

A national screening programme to prevent thyroid disease in adults is not recommended. Tests measuring thyroid hormone levels are available. Treatment of people who are ill because of thyroid disease is recommended within the NHS.

 
Key downloads Last external review
 

What is screening?

Screening is a process of identifying apparently healthy people who may be at increased risk of a disease or condition. They can then be offered information, further tests and appropriate treatment to reduce their risk and/or any complications arising from the disease or condition. It is important to ensure that the benefits and downsides of screening have been properly thought through. The UK National Screening Committee (UK NSC) is responsible for reviewing screening policies every 3 years and making recommendations to ministers in the 4 UK countries about whether to not a screening programme for a certain condition should be set up.

» Find out more about screening, the role of the UK NSC or the policy review process

More about Thyroid disease

Thyroid disease is a medical condition impairing the function of the thyroid.

Hyperthyroidism, also known as thyrotoxicosis or overactive thyroid, is a condition that occurs when there is too much thyroid hormone in the body. The condition is more common in women than men.

Hypothyroidism describes the general effects of a severely underactive thyroid gland, where not enough hormones are produced to keep the body functioning properly.

» Read more about overactive thyroid on NHS Choices

» Read more about underactive thyroid on NHS Choices

Why is screening not recommended by UK NSC?

Screening would detect people before they become ill and a review found that:

  • There is a lack of agreement about what a normal thyroid hormone level is.
  • In people who are not ill this means that it is difficult to use test results to decide who should receive treatment.
  • Some people's thyroid hormone levels will return to normal without treatment. These people may not benefit from treatment. It is not known how many this is.
  • There is some evidence that there may be harmful effects from treating people with no symptoms of thyroid disease. These have not been properly studied.

Because of this, the balance of benefit and harm from screening is not known.

Policy stakeholders

British Thyroid Association
British Thyroid Foundation

The stakeholder groups will be involved when the policy is next reviewed. If you think your organisation should be added, please contact us. More about the policy review process, including the role of stakeholders, can be found in the guide to Engaging with the UK NSC's policy review process.

Related documents

icon Screening for Thyroid Disease (PDF document, 885KB, 06/01/14)

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