Thyroid Cancer

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Early Detection, Diagnosis, and Staging TOPICS

Thyroid cancer survival by type and stage

Survival rates are often used by doctors as a standard way of discussing a person’s prognosis (outlook). Some patients with cancer may want to know the survival statistics for people in similar situations, while others may not find the numbers helpful, or may even not want to know them. If you do not want to read about the survival statistics for thyroid cancer, skip to the next section.

The 5-year survival rate refers to the percentage of patients who live at least 5 years after their cancer is diagnosed. Of course, many people live much longer than 5 years (and many are cured).

Five-year relative survival rates take the 5-year survival rate and divide it by the survival expected for people without cancer. This helps adjust for deaths caused by things other than cancer. This is a more accurate way to describe the prognosis for patients with a particular type and stage of cancer.

In order to get 5-year survival rates, doctors have to look at people who were treated at least 5 years ago. Improvements in treatment since then may result in a more favorable outlook for people now being diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

Survival rates are often based on previous outcomes of large numbers of people who had the disease, but they cannot predict what will happen in any particular person’s case. The type and the stage of a person’s cancer are important in estimating their outlook. But many other factors may also affect their prognosis, such as their age and general health and how well the cancer responds to treatment. Even when taking these other factors into account, survival rates are at best rough estimates. Your doctor can tell you how the numbers below might apply to you, as he or she is familiar with your situation.

The following survival statistics were published in 2010 in the 7th edition of the AJCC Cancer Staging Manual. They are based on the stage of the cancer when the person is first diagnosed.

Papillary thyroid cancer*

    Stage

    5-Year Relative Survival Rate

 

    I

    near 100%

    II

    near 100%

    III

    93%

    IV

    51%

*Based on patients diagnosed 1998 to 1999

Follicular thyroid cancer*

    Stage

    5-Year Relative Survival Rate

 

    I

    near 100%

    II

    near 100%

    III

    71%

    IV

    50%

*Based on patients diagnosed 1998 to 1999

Medullary thyroid cancer**

    Stage

    5-Year Relative Survival Rate

 

    I

    near 100%

    II

    98%

    III

    81%

    IV

    28%

**Based on patients diagnosed between 1985 and 1991

Anaplastic thyroid cancer

The 5-year relative survival rate for anaplastic (undifferentiated) carcinomas, all of which are considered stage IV, is around 7% (based on patients diagnosed between 1985 and 1991).


Last Medical Review: 02/24/2014
Last Revised: 03/20/2014