Papillary Thyroid Cancer

Key Clinical Characteristics

  • The most common form of thyroid cancer, accounts for 80-90% of all thyroid cancer.
  • The incidence of papillary thyroid cancer is rising in the U.S.
  • This form of thyroid cancer is more common among women.
  • Radiation exposure during childhood is a risk factor for the development of this form of thyroid cancer.
  • With effective therapy, long term survival rates exceed 95-98% for most patients with this form of thyroid cancer.
  • Thyroid cancer arises from mutations in specific genes.

Basics of Disease Management

  • Papillary thyroid cancer is usually diagnosed by a fine needle aspiration biopsy of a thyroid nodule.
  • Surgery is the mainstay of treatment for papillary thyroid cancer.
  • Thyroidectomy should be performed by an experienced thyroid surgeon.
  • Endocrinologists play a key role in diagnosing and managing patients with thyroid cancer. Most patients will require replacement therapy with thyroid hormone (T4) which requires monitoring.
  • Some patients may benefit from treatment with radioactive iodine. This decision is best made in consultation with an endocrinologist or nuclear medicine specialist.
  • Thyroid cancer treatment should be individualized by a team of specialists to ensure the best possible outcome.
  • Papillary thyroid cancers usually produce thyroglobulin that can be measured by a blood test

Advanced Disease: Special Issues

  • Some subtypes of papillary thyroid cancer, such as the tall cell variant, are more aggressive.
  • Many patients with papillary thyroid cancer may have disease that has spread to lymph nodes in the neck.
  • More rarely, papillary thyroid cancer can spread (metastasize) to other organs in the body, such as lungs and bones.
  • Patients with symptoms due to metastatic thyroid cancer or growth of thyroid cancer in other organs may benefit from consultation with a medical oncologist specializing in thyroid cancer and consideration of targeted therapy or participation in clinical trials.

Participation in Clinical Trials

  • Clinical trials are carefully controlled experiments that are conducted to discover more effective therapies.
  • Some patients with advanced disease may be candidates for participation in clinical trials.
  • Physicians that specialize in care of patients with advanced thyroid cancer can help identify whether you may be an appropriate candidate for participation in a clinical trial.
  • Consultation with a thyroid cancer specialist to consider new forms of therapy for thyroid cancer is encouraged for patients with advanced disease.



International Thyroid Oncology Group
5166 Commercial Drive
Yorkville, New York 13495