JOPLIN, MO.--- 10 years ago, Kristen Sweet's life was turned upside down.
"My mom was diagnosed with thyroid cancer," says Kristen Sweet, Thyroid Cancer Survivor.
A few years later, she would face her own battle with thyroid cancer.
"I noticed some of the same symptoms that she was having as far as raspy voice, so that's when I asked my family doctor to test me an see if they noticed anything within my throat that might be related to that," says Sweet.
That was in 2006, and she says the decision to remove the whole thyroid, or just a portion, was a topic of debate, even during her surgery.
"They decided actually during surgery that taking out my whole thyroid was really the best option for me," says Sweet.
Kristen says in her case, it was evident cancer was present, but doctors say it's not always so easy to detect.
"This is where the gene classifier comes to play if it's indeterminate," says Doctor Shadi Badrieh, Freeman Health System.
The gene classifier is a relatively new tool that helps doctors to make a more accurate diagnosis than a typical biopsy. Doctor Shadi Badrieh with Freeman Health System in Joplin says it's also less invasive, meaning surgery isn't needed.
"We aspirate using a very fine needle and go directly to the actual nodule and try to get some cells and extract some cells out of it and send it to pathologists," says Dr. Badrieh.
Having better results lets him provide patients with more options.
"Make the patients make the right decision, make sure they are well informed when they take their questions because it's not very simple to take care of these patients, " says Dr. Badrieh.
Doctors say many patients choose to take their thyroid out as a precaution, leaving some to take medications that mimic the thyroid function for the rest of their lives.