Can Thyroid Cancer Spread And What Are The Risks

By Sara Stone
Updated February 23, 2016
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Can Thyroid Cancer Spread And What Are The RisksThe thyroid gland within the body is located towards the front of the neck, and it can be felt just below the Adam's apple space. The organ is butterfly shaped, and stretches over the middle of the neck, just below the thyroid cartilage. The most common forms of thyroid cancer are follicular and papillary thyroid cancer, and about every 9 in 10 people with thyroid cancer suffer from these variations. Before we can answer the question "can thyroid cancer spread" it's important to know that there are different types of thyroid cancer that come with different features.                       

Understanding Thyroid Cancer

If you're asking "can thyroid cancer spread" you've probably already been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, or know someone who has been diagnosed with the disease. In 2015, it's estimated that there were approximately 62,000 new cases of this cancer diagnosed within the United States, and the appearance of this form of cancer is increasing by the year. There are four primary types of thyroid cancer.

The first form of thyroid cancer, which represents about 75-80% of cases, is known as papillary carcinoma. The second type is follicular carcinoma, which represents around 15% of thyroid cancers, and the third is medullary carcinoma's which represent 5% of thyroid cancers. The final form of thyroid cancer is undifferentiated or anaplastic carcinomas, which apply to only 1% of patients.

There are other forms of cancer that can be found within the thyroid, including metastases or cancers that have spread from other locations, and lymphomas which are cancerous lymph gland cells.

Can Thyroid Cancer Spread?

The type of thyroid cancer that you are diagnosed with will have an impact on its chances of spreading to other locations within the body. For example, papillary and follicular thyroid cancers are often referred to as differentiated thyroid cancer, which means that the cancer cells act and look similar to normal thyroid cells. These thyroid cancers are responsible for more than 90% of all diagnoses, and they tend to grow very slowly. When it comes to spreading, the different variants of papillary and follicular cancer, particularly insular and trabecular, are considered to grow and spread more quickly than typical papillary cancers.

While papillary cancer grows very slowly, it can often spread to lymph nodes in the neck quite quickly, and also spread to other areas of the body. The most common variant of papillary thyroid cancer is the follicular variant, whereas other less common variations are more likely to grow and spread faster throughout the body. On the other hand, follicular thyroid cancers don't generally spread to the lymph nodes, but can in some cases spread to other parts of the body. The most common places for follicular cancer to spread to are the bones and lungs.

Your doctors will discuss the risks and nuances of your particular diagnosis with you so that you know how to properly fight back against the type of cancer your body is dealing with. You and your doctor should be able to come up with a personalized treatment plan.

* Disclaimer:
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other health-care professional.