What is papillary thyroid cancer?

Papillary thyroid cancer is the most common cancer of the thyroid gland. Treatment is usually successful, and recovery rates are high. Papillary thyroid cancer can spread to the lymph nodes if left untreated, but it usually grows slowly.

Papillary thyroid cancer is the most common type of thyroid cancer, making up to 70% to 80% of all thyroid cancer cases. Papillary thyroid cancer can occur at any age, and its incidence has been increasing over the last few decades. There are about 20,000 new cases of papillary thyroid cancer in the United States each year. It is now ranked as the 8th most common cancer in women in the United States, and the most common cancer in women under the age of 25 years. Being diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer can be very scary at first, however papillary thyroid cancers are most often slow growing tumors, and most can be removed surgically. Although slow-growing, papillary thyroid cancer can sometimes spread to the lymph nodes in the neck. Unlike some other tumors, positive lymph nodes do not usually worsen the generally excellent prognosis for those with papillary thyroid cancer. The involved lymph nodes can be surgically removed along with the thyroid. Most people diagnosed with PTC will not die from it. 
Papillary thyroid cancer, which is the most common type of thyroid cancer, makes up about 80% of all cases of thyroid cancer. It is one of the fastest growing cancer types with over 20,000 new cases a year. In fact, it is the 8th most common cancer among women overall and the most common cancer in women younger than 25. Although a person can get papillary thyroid cancer at any age, most patients will present before the age of 40. Although risk factors for papillary thyroid cancer include radiation exposure and a family history of thyroid cancer, it is important to note that the majority of patients have no risk factors at all. Fortunately, papillary thyroid cancer is also the thyroid cancer with the best prognosis and most patients can be cured if treated appropriately and early enough. Up to 20% of patients will have involved lymph nodes at the time of diagnosis. However, unlike other cancers where involved lymph nodes means a very poor prognosis, in thyroid cancer involved lymph nodes usually have almost no impact on survival. Involved lymph nodes may increase the chance of recurrence (i.e. cancer coming back), but they do not change the prognosis. Most patients with papillary thyroid cancer will not die of this disease.

Continue Learning about Thyroid Cancer

Why Are Thyroid Cancer Rates Higher Than They Used to Be?
Why Are Thyroid Cancer Rates Higher Than They Used to Be?
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of your neck, just below your Adam’s apple. Although it’s small, it serves a host of vita...
Read More
How do I care for someone with anaplastic thyroid cancer?
Honor Society of Nursing (STTI)Honor Society of Nursing (STTI)
Caring for someone with anaplastic thyroid cancer depends on where they are in the illness. People n...
More Answers
What are follicular and Hurthle cell thyroid cancers?
American Association of Endocrine SurgeonsAmerican Association of Endocrine Surgeons
Follicular and Hurthle cell cancers are two different types of cancer, but they are often considered...
More Answers
What Is Thyroid Cancer?
What Is Thyroid Cancer?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.