In English | En español
Questions About Cancer? 1-800-4-CANCER

What You Need To Know About™

Thyroid Cancer

  • Posted: 05/07/2012

Page Options

  • Print This Page
  • Print This Document
  • View Entire Document
  • Email This Document
  • View/Print PDF
  • Download to Kindle
  • Download to other E-readers

Types of Thyroid Cancer

There are several types of thyroid cancer:

  • Papillary: In the United States, papillary thyroid cancer is the most common type. About 86 of every 100 people with thyroid cancer have this type. It begins in follicular cells and usually grows slowly. If diagnosed early, most people with papillary thyroid cancer can be cured.
  • Follicular: The second most common type is follicular thyroid cancer. A little more than 9 of every 100 people with thyroid cancer have this type. It begins in follicular cells and usually grows slowly. If diagnosed early, most people with follicular thyroid cancer can be treated successfully.
  • Medullary: Medullary thyroid cancer is not common. About 2 of every 100 people with thyroid cancer have this type. It begins in C cells and can make abnormally high levels of calcitonin. Medullary thyroid cancer tends to grow slowly. It can be easier to control if it’s found and treated before it spreads to other parts of the body.

    Medullary Thyroid Cancer Sometimes Runs in Families

    A change in a gene called RET can be passed from parent to child. Nearly everyone with a changed RET gene develops medullary thyroid cancer. The disease occurs alone, as familial medullary thyroid cancer, or with other cancers, as multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN) syndrome.

    A blood test can usually detect a changed RET gene. If it’s found in a person with medullary thyroid cancer, the doctor may suggest that family members also be tested. For those who have a changed gene, the doctor may recommend frequent lab tests or surgery to remove the thyroid before cancer develops.
  • Anaplastic: The least common type is anaplastic thyroid cancer. About 1 of every 100 people with thyroid cancer has this type. Most people with anaplastic thyroid cancer are older than 60. The cancer begins in follicular cells of the thyroid. The cancer cells tend to grow and spread very quickly. Anaplastic thyroid cancer is very hard to control.

Tests and treatment options depend on the type of thyroid cancer.

This text may be reproduced or reused freely. Please credit the National Cancer Institute as the source. Any graphics may be owned by the artist or publisher who created them, and permission may be needed for their reuse.