- Thyroid Cancer Risk Factors
- Papillary Thyroid Cancer
- Follicular and Hurthle Cell Thyroid Cancer
- Medullary Thyroid Cancer
- Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer
- Thyroid Lymphoma
- Staging and Prognosis
The number of new cases of thyroid cancer is increasing faster than any other cancer in the United States, and there are approximately 30,000 new cases each year. This increase is most likely due to the fact that we are getting better at finding thyroid cancer when they are smaller and at earlier stages because our screening tests are more accurate. As frightening as the thought of cancer is, most thyroid cancers are very treatable and can usually be cured with surgery and appropriate therapy. In fact, there are only about 1000 deaths from thyroid cancer per year in the United States, which is less than 1% of all cancer deaths.
There are four major types of thyroid cancer:
- Gollicular and Hurthle Cell
The more "differentiated" the thyroid cancer is the closer to normal thyroid tissue it is. "Well-differentiated" thyroid cancers are more easily treated and have a better prognosis than poorly differentiated thyroid cancers. Papillary, follicular, and Hurthle cell cancers are considered "well differentiated" thyroid cancers. Fortunately, almost 90% of thyroid cancers are well-differentiated and are usually associated with the best prognosis mainly because they tend to grow very slowly, particularly in young patients. Papillary thyroid cancer is the most common thyroid cancer (80% of cases) and has the best prognosis.
See Papillary Thyroid Cancer, Follicular and Hurthle Cell Thyroid Cancer ». Medullary thyroid cancer is not classified according to its differentiation because it does not come from thyroid cells. Rather, it is a cancer of the "C" cells which are neuroendocrine cells within the thyroid. See Medullary Thyroid Cancer ».
Anaplastic cancer is often called "undifferentiated" because it least resembles the normal thyroid tissue. It is a rare type of thyroid cancer that is very aggressive and is associated with a poor prognosis. See Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer».
Thyroid lymphoma is also very uncommon but can be confused with anaplastic cancer because it also usually grows quickly. Fortunately, thyroid lymphoma is very treatable.
Important factors in determining a patient's prognosis include the type of cancer, size of the tumor, spread of the tumor into nearby structures in the neck, spread of the tumor to other areas of the body (i.e. metastasis), and most importantly, the age of the patient. See Prognosis of Thyroid Cancer ».