The prognosis for patients with thyroid cancer
The thyroid cancer prognosis depends on both patient factors and disease factors. Most thyroid cancers are very curable and the most common types of thyroid cancer (papillary and follicular thyroid cancer) are the most curable. In younger patients, both papillary and follicular cancers have a more than 97% cure rate if well treated. Both papillary and follicular thyroid cancers are typically treated with surgery.
Overall most thyroid cancers are the papillary type and this is one of the most curable cancers. Treated correctly, the cure rate is extremely high. Medullary thyroid cancer is less common and has a worse prognosis. Medullary cancers tend to spread to large numbers of lymph nodes very early on, and therefore require a much more extensive operation. Medullary thyroid cancer requires complete thyroid removal plus a dissection to remove the lymph nodes of the front and sides of the neck.
The least common type of thyroid cancer is anaplastic thyroid cancer, which has a very poor prognosis. Anaplastic thyroid cancer tends to be found after it has spread, and it is incurable in most cases.
The prognosis for patients with thyroid cancer depends on many factors including:
- The tumour type
- The age of the patient and gender
- The local and regional tumour extent at the time of diagnosis
- Spread of the tumour into the adjacent structures in the neck
- Spread or metastasis of the tumour to other areas of the body
Various methods have been established to quantify these factors and determine an approximate prognosis for a patient with thyroid cancer depending on the specific features of their tumour. The following outlines the prognosis for patients with thyroid cancer based on the type and stage.