Dr. Daniel Branovan of Project Chernobyl and Director of Thyroid Center at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary said that the thyroid cancer screenings in Rockland County sponsored by Assemblywoman Jaffee showed higher than average rate of thyroid abnormalities. The test results corresponded to the New York State Department of Health’s findings that Rockland has one of the highest rates of thyroid cancer in New York State and the US. Project Chernobyl, a not-for-profit specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of thyroid cancer, conducted free screenings in Rockland this past November and May at Ms. Jaffee’s request. According to the project’s director, the internationally distinguished thyroid specialist Dr. Daniel Branovan, “The sample we obtained is too small a number on which to make conclusions, however further study in Rockland would be beneficial, so we could determine causes.” Roughly 150 people in all received the free screenings, which were held at Rockland Community College and at the Jewish Community Campus.
Assemblywoman Jaffee said, “I was made aware that our county had high thyroid cancer rates and then learned about Project Chernobyl from a colleague. I invited them to Rockland and am grateful that they came. Thyroid cancer is highly treatable; the earlier it is detected, the better. Awareness is critical, so that Rockland residents can be informed and can discuss this with their physicians to determine if screening is appropriate.”
According to Dr. Branovan, thyroid cancer has tripled in the United States over the past 20 years. Certain persons are at risk, such as those who have been exposed to radiation in various forms, including some medical treatment. Dr. Branovan explains that despite the high occurrence of suspicious growths in the sample tested, thyroid cancer is not rare, but is not as common as some other cancers. He explained, “Usually the rate is 6-9 in 10,000. In Rockland, based on what we found and what DOH reported, it’s about 15 to 18 in 10,000.” With the county’s population close to 300,000, anywhere from 450 to 540 people will be diagnosed each year.
Project Chernobyl’s screening uses state-of-the-art ultrasound equipment. Dr. Branovan says, “Timely detection is so critical because thyroid cancer has an exceptionally high cure rate.” He urges people to discuss this with their internist or general practitioner who can then advise them where to receive screenings, if that test is recommended.
Project Chernobyl is able to provide free screenings because of a grant from New York State. Assemblywoman Jaffee hopes Project Chernobyl can return to Rockland a few more times, and that eventually that funding will be available for an in-depth study. “I’m realistic given our budget shortfall, but there is some limited funding, even at the federal level, and I want Rockland to be first in line.”