Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer
Anaplastic thyroid cancer, also called undifferentiated thyroid cancer, is relatively rare – less than 5% of all thyroid cancers. Anaplastic thyroid cancer is more common in older people (with an average age of about 60) and is more common in women than in men. This cancer has a very low cure rate with the very best treatments – only 10% of patients are alive 3 years after it is diagnosed.
- Unlike other types of thyroid cancer, the symptoms of anaplastic thyroid cancer are usually noticeable right away
- Most patients initially complain of difficulty breathing, either shortness of breath or noisy breathing, as well as changes in their voice, usually hoarseness
- These changes are the result of the rapidly growing cancer pressing on the windpipe and invading the nerves that control the voice
- Additionally, most patients notice a large and rapidly growing mass in the front of their neck
- The diagnosis is confirmed by biopsy with imaging to determine the extent of disease
- The major problem with anaplastic thyroid cancer is that it is usually too aggressive and invasive when it is diagnosed
- Only a small fraction of patients can undergo surgical removal of the cancer in hopes of curing it
- Many patients, especially those who have advanced cancer and cannot undergo surgical resection, will benefit from external beam radiation therapy
- Some chemotherapy treatments may also be beneficial to patients with anaplastic thyroid cancer.
- For those patients who are diagnosed at an earlier stage, or for patients who respond well to chemoradiation, a total thyroidectomy may be beneficial
If you have any questions about thyroid symptoms or thyroid surgery, you should speak to your local doctor, who will arrange to contact your thyroid surgeon.