Outlook For Thyroid Cancer
Around 9 in every 10 people are alive 5 years after a diagnosis of thyroid cancer. Many of these;are;cured and will have a normal lifespan.
But the outlook;varies depending on the type of thyroid cancer and how early it was diagnosed. At present the outlook is:
- more than;9 in 10 people with papillary carcinoma live at least 5 years after diagnosis
- more than 9 in 10 people with follicular carcinoma live at least 5 years after diagnosis
- more than 7 in 10 men, and around 9 in 10 women with medullary thyroid carcinoma live at least 5 years after diagnosis
- around 1 in 10 people with anaplastic thyroid carcinoma live at least 5 years after diagnosis
Up to;1 in 4 people treated for thyroid cancer are later diagnosed with cancer in another part of the body, such as the lungs or bones, but cancer can often be treated again if this happens.
Page last reviewed: 28 August 2019 Next review due: 28 August 2022
How Does The Doctor Know I Have Thyroid Cancer
Most thyroid cancers are found when patients see a doctor because of new neck lumps . Sometimes doctors find neck lumps during a physical exam. Yet other times thyroid cancer may be found during an ultrasound test for other health problems.
If signs are pointing to thyroid cancer, more tests will be done.
What Will Happen After Treatment
Most people do very well after treatment, but you may need follow-up care for the rest of your life. This is because most thyroid cancers grow slowly and can come back even 10 to 20 years after treatment. Your cancer care team will tell you what tests you need and how often they should be done.
Be sure to go to all of these follow-up visits. You will have exams, blood tests, and maybe other tests to see if the cancer has come back. At first, your visits may be every 3 to 6 months. Then, the longer youre cancer-free, the less often the visits are needed.;
Sometimes treatments may not cure your cancer. You many need to keep getting treatment and care. From time to time tests will be done to see how your treatment is working.;
Having cancer and dealing with treatment can be hard, but it can also be a time to look at your life in new ways. Call us at 1-800-227-2345 or talk to your cancer care team to find out what you can do to feel better.
You cant change the fact that you have cancer. What you can change is how you live the rest of your life.
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Medical History And Physical Exam
If you have any signs or symptoms that suggest you might have thyroid cancer, your health care professional will want to know your complete medical history. You will be asked questions about your possible risk factors, symptoms, and any other health problems or concerns. If someone in your family has had thyroid cancer or tumors called pheochromocytomas, it is important to tell your doctor, as you might be at high risk for this disease.
Your doctor will examine you to get more information about possible signs of thyroid cancer and other health problems. During the exam, the doctor will pay special attention to the size and firmness of your thyroid and any enlarged lymph nodes in your neck.
How Is Thyroid Cancer Treated
Cancerous thyroid nodules can be surgically removed. Depending on the location and amount of nodules, part or all of the thyroid might also need to be removed. If doctors remove the entire thyroid, a patient will be given a hormone pill they will need to take for life. Radioactive iodine therapy might also be used. Chemotherapy is rarely needed for thyroid cancer, the American Cancer Society notes.;
Thyroid cancer in the vast majority of cases is not far advanced nor highly aggressive, Moore said. Many people who are diagnosed are being cured and living a healthy life.
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Surgery For Papillary Thyroid Cancer
Papillary thyroid cancer is treated with surgery. It is important to understand that the best chance of cure is to have an expert thyroid cancer surgeon from the beginning. A surgeon who performs surgery for papillary thyroid cancer on a daily basis has a higher cure rate than a surgeon who performs thyroid surgery several times per week, or does other types of thyroid surgery . Surgery for thyroid cancer has become very specialized, so it is important for you to be comfortable with your choice of surgeon.
Lab Tests Of Biopsy Samples
In some cases, doctors might use molecular tests to look for specific gene changes in the cancer cells. This might be done for different reasons:
- If FNA biopsy results arent clear, the doctor might order lab tests on the samples to see if there are changes in the BRAF or RET/PTC genes. Finding one of these changes makes thyroid cancer much more likely.
- For some types of thyroid cancer, molecular tests might be done to see if the cancer cells have changes in certain genes , which could mean that certain targeted drugs might be helpful in treating the cancer.
These tests can be done on tissue taken during a biopsy or surgery for thyroid cancer. If the biopsy sample is too small and all the molecular tests cant be done, the testing may also be done on blood that is taken from a vein, just like a regular blood draw.
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Thyroid Cancer Symptoms Diagnosis And Treatments
According to the National Cancer Institute, there are over 56,000 new cases of thyroid cancer in the US each year, and the majority of those diagnosed are papillary thyroid cancerthe most common type of thyroid cancer. Females are more likely to have thyroid cancer at a ratio of 3:1. Thyroid cancer can occur in any age group, although it is most common after age 30, and its aggressiveness increases significantly in older patients. Approximately 1.2 percent of all men and women will be diagnosed with thyroid cancer during the course of their lifetime.
This article will highlight some common thyroid cancer signs and symptoms as well as thyroid cancer prognosis and treatments.
In this Article:
Warning Signs Of Thyroid Cancer: Know Your Neck
September is Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month. Everyone has a thyroid gland. Because there is no screening test for the disease, it’s critical to understand and recognize the signs and symptoms so we can catch it early. Fortunately, thyroid cancers that are detected early are highly curable.
The thyroid gland affects many functions in the body heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and weight. It is located in the lower, front part of the neck and contains two lobes, the left lobe and the right lobe. Like any other cells in the body, the cells in the thyroid gland have the potential to become cancerous.
Signs of cancer in the thyroid are not always obvious. So its important to pay attention to any changes, such as:
- Unusual nodules, or bumps, on your neck
- Persistent hoarseness or other voice changes
- Persistent, unexplained cough
- Pain in the neck or throat
- Sensitivity in the neck
Anyone who has had prior radiation to the neck could be at higher risk for the disease and needs to be particularly aware of such signs.
Frequently Searched Questions: Thyroid Cancer
You ask the internet a lot of questions and Roswell Park has some answers. Head and neck surgeon, Vishal Gupta, MD, and endocrinologist, Rajeev Sharma, MBBS, MD, FACE, sat down to answer some of the internet’s most-searched-for questions related to thyroid cancer.
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After Surgery: Radioactive Iodine And Long
Almost all people who had surgery for papillary thyroid cancer will need to see a doctor for many years to have exams and certain blood tests to make sure the cancer has been cured, and to detect any return of the cancer as soon as possible should it return. Many people with papillary thyroid cancer will need to take radioactive iodine to help cure the cancer. We have several very important pages on these topics.
ThyroidCancer.com is an educational service of the Clayman Thyroid Center, the world’s leading thyroid cancer surgery center.
Treatment For Thyroid Cancer
Surgery to remove the thyroid and any affected lymph nodes is the preferredtreatment. Afterward, the patient will takethyroid hormonesto cover the loss of the gland and radioactive iodine to treat anyremaining cancer cells.
Traditional surgical removal of the thyroid gland, or thyroidectomy, leavesa prominent scar on the front of the neck. Russell notes that some thyroidcancer survivors are fine with their thyroidectomy scar and regard it as abadge of honor.
But plenty of patients dont want the constant reminder of cancer surgeryeach time they look in the mirror. Or they dont necessarily want a scar tobe the first thing a stranger notices. They say Its my business that Ihad a problem with my thyroid, Russell says.
Russell offers patients the option of ascarless thyroidectomy, in which the surgeon reaches the thyroid gland and removes it through themouth, so theres no cutting or scarring of the neck.
Though initially skeptical about the novel approach, Russell studied thetechnique in Thailand and saw that scarless thyroidectomy could be avaluable alternative to a traditional approach. Now Russells clinic is aleader in performing scarless thyroidectomies and trains surgeons from allover the world.
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A Surprising Scary Diagnosis
After that day, things happened at warp speed. My seasonal allergy symptoms and raspy voice turned out to be subtle signs that a mass was pressing against my trachea. A soft tissue neck ultrasound and fine needle biopsy soon revealed that I had a four-centimeter tumor covering the entire right lobe of my thyroid gland. It turned out to be a type of thyroid cancer called follicular variant of papillary carcinoma.
I never gave much thought to my thyroid. But amid all the testing and my cancer diagnosis, I learned just how important it is. This butterfly-shaped gland produces thyroid hormone , which regulates just about every function in the body, such as metabolism, heartbeat, temperature, mood, and other important processes. It reaches out to nearly every cell in the body.
“The most common type of thyroid cancer is papillary carcinoma,” says thyroid cancer specialist Eric Whitman, MD, medical director of Atlantic Health Cancer Care in Morristown, New Jersey. “Follicular variant is a subtype. Papillary and follicular thyroid cancers account for more than 90% of all thyroid cancers. They tend to grow very slowly.” While follicular thyroid cancers usually do not spread to the lymph nodes, like many other cancers do, they can move into other body areas, such as the lungs or bones.
Thyroid Cancer: Common In Women
Thyroid disorders are more common in women, probably due to the roles of hormones, which are different in femalesthan in males.
Thyroid nodules, Russell says, affect up to 80 percent of women, but only 5percent to 15 percent of those lumps and bumps are malignant. Bettertesting means thyroid tumors are on the rise, he notes, saying that itsprojected to become the third most common cancer.
Malignant and cancer are scary words, but Russell says that mostthyroid cancer is highly treatable, even when the cancer cells spread tonearby lymph nodes, which occurs frequently.
With thyroid cancer we talk about prognosis in terms of 20-year survivalinstead of five years, as we do with most other cancers. Its usually aslow-moving disease. Theres a 98 to 99 percent survival rate at 20 years,he says.
We treat it almost like a chronic condition where the patient getstreatment and visits her doctor regularly for follow-up.
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My Thyroid Cancer Diagnosis And Treatment Timeline
I am a healthy woman who was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at 29. I do not smoke, drink alcohol rarely, avoid fast food, and exercise frequently.
Cancer is scary. While thyroid cancer is treatable it leaves us with completely new bodies. Nothing works like it used to, and trust methat is frustrating.
I am writing about my experiences in a series of posts because I hope it can help somebody else who develops this condition.
One question I am always asked is how did you discover you had;;cancer? ;Well, thats an interesting story.
People want to know how I found out I had a problem, so heres my diagnosis and treatment timeline.
Late December 2012:
I went to the emergency room from work because I suddenly had pain with breathing. I called the nurse line and was told that because of my birth control I could be having a pulmonary embolism.
David was on the flight line, so I drove myself to the ER.
After several hours and many tests they discovered the real problem.
I had thyroid nodules/cysts that had gotten so large on the left side of my throat that that they had nowhere to swell too on my small frame, pushing the swelling into my lungs and throat.
Other symptoms that developed prior to this ER visit was a very pungent body odor. It wasnt regular BO. It was worse than that. I actually blogged about it here.
Thyroid nodules are prevalent in my family, so I wasnt too concerned.
I was released from the ER and told to schedule a referral to an endocrinologist.
How Common Is Thyroid Cancer
Thyroid cancer is a rare form of cancer, accounting for less than 1% of all cancer cases in the UK. Each year, around 2,700 people are diagnosed with thyroid cancer in the UK.
It’s most common in people aged 35 to 39 years and in those aged 70 years or over.
Women are 2;to 3;times more likely to develop thyroid cancer than men. It’s unclear why this is, but it may be;a result of;the hormonal changes associated with the female reproductive system.
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Surgery For Thyroid Cancer
Most patients with thyroid cancer have some type of surgery. Surgery is done to take out the tumor and all or part of the thyroid gland. Sometimes lymph nodes are taken out from the neck, too.
Side effects of surgery
Any type of surgery can have risks and side effects. Be sure to ask the doctor what you can expect. Possible side effects of thyroid surgery include:
- Bleeding or a blood clot in the neck
- Damage to the parathyroid glands
- Short or long term problems with your voice
How Does Your Thyroid Gland Work
Thyroid hormone production is regulated by a feedback loop between the hypothalamus, pituitary gland and the thyroid gland. Hypothalamic thyrotropin-releasing hormone stimulates pituitary thyrotropin synthesis and secretion.
In turn, TSH stimulates production and release of T4 and T3 from the thyroid gland. When enough T4 is produced, it signals to TRH and TSH that there is enough thyroid hormone in circulation and not to produce more.
About 85% of the hormone produced by our thyroid gland is T4, which is an inactive form of the hormone. After T4 is made, a small amount of it is converted into T3, which is the active form of thyroid hormone.
To complicate matters, T3 also gets converted into either Free T3 or Reverse T3 . Its the Free T3 that really matters in all of this, since its the only hormone that can attach to a receptor and cause your metabolism to rise, keep you warm, keep your bowels moving, mind working, and other hormones in check. The role of Reverse T3 is not well known, however, I do see it elevated in persons under extreme stress and those who have mercury toxicity.
And finally, Hashimotos thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease, is the most common form of hypothyroidism and its numbers are rising annually. An autoimmune disease is one in which your body turns on itself and begins to attack a certain organ or tissue believing its foreign.
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Articles On Thyroid Cancer
Your thyroid is shaped like a small butterfly, and is usually found inside the lower front of your neck. Itâs a gland that controls your metabolism. It also releases hormones that direct many functions in your body, including how you use energy, how you produce heat, and how you consume oxygen.
Thyroid cancer develops when cells change or mutate. The abnormal cells begin multiplying in your thyroid and, once there are enough of them, they form a tumor.
If itâs caught early, thyroid cancer is one of the most treatable forms of cancer.
Are Radioactive Iodine Thyroid Scans Used To Diagnose Thyroid Cancer
If the thyroid blood tests are normal, radioactive iodine scans are seldom used in the United States in the evaluation of thyroid nodules. Radioactive iodine scans of the neck will document the location and general size of the isotope-concentrating thyroid but not as precisely as will an ultrasound. The portion of the gland which does not concentrate the radioisotope will not be visualized. It does provide a measure of the glands ability to pick-up or concentrate the radioactive isotope, a gross measure of thyroid function.
Most thyroid tumors, benign and malignant, will not concentrate the isotope but, on the contrary, a small portion of tumors that do so may be malignant. Thus, the radioactive isotope scan provides little help in distinguishing between benign and malignant tumors.
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What Questions Should I Ask My Doctor
If you have thyroid cancer, you may want to ask your healthcare provider:
- Why did I get thyroid cancer?
- What type of thyroid cancer do I have?
- Has the cancer spread outside of the thyroid gland?
- What is the best treatment for this type of thyroid cancer?
- What are the treatment risks and side effects?
- Will I need thyroid replacement hormone therapy?
- Is my family at risk for developing this type of thyroid cancer? If so, should we get genetic tests?
- Can I get thyroid cancer again?
- Am I at risk for other types of cancer?
- What type of follow-up care do I need after treatment?
- Should I look out for signs of complications?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Receiving a cancer diagnosis is unsettling, regardless of the type. Fortunately, most thyroid cancers respond extremely well to treatment. Your healthcare provider can discuss the best treatment option for the type of thyroid cancer you have. After treatment, you may need to take synthetic thyroid hormones for life. These hormones support vital body functions. They usually dont cause any significant side effects, but youll have regular checkups to monitor your health.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/13/2020.