Thyroid cancer is a highly treatable cancer except for a certain type of cancer (anaplastic thyroid cancer). The chances of recovery increase when cancer is diagnosed at its earlier stages. At stage IV, cancer has reached an advanced stage. This means that the tumor has spread to other organs in the neck, lymph nodes or distant organs of the body such as the lungs, liver etc. and hence becomes difficult to treat. How long you can live with this stage depends on your overall health and the type of thyroid cancer you have.
There are four types of thyroid cancer.
Among all these types, papillary thyroid cancer is the most common type of thyroid cancer. It grows slowly and responds well to therapy despite its spread to the lymph nodes.
Follicular and medullary thyroid cancers are the less common types of thyroid cancer. However, they also respond well to cancer treatments.
Anaplastic thyroid cancer is the least common type of thyroid cancer but the fastest to grow among all four types. It doesn't respond well to treatments.
Other factors that influence your chances of survival with thyroid cancer include
- Age: If you are younger than 40 years of age, you have more years to live than those who are older than 40 years of age.
- Overall health: If your body can tolerate cancer and its treatments well, you have better chances of survival for many more years.
- Other conditions: If you have hereditary disorders such as multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2B (MEN2B), you are more likely to get medullary thyroid cancer. Having this inherited condition also means you may get diagnosed with thyroid cancer at a later stage when it becomes hard to treat.
Survival rates of thyroid cancer
Survival rates for cancer are calculated in terms of how many people survived for at least five years after the disease diagnosis. These data are derived from a study that observed a particular set of people for five years after their diagnosis. The five-year survival rate for thyroid cancer means what percentage of people lived for at least five years after their diagnosis of thyroid cancer.
Five-year relative survival rates (in percent) for each type of stage IV thyroid cancer (American Joint Committee of Cancer [AJCC] classification) are as follows.
- Papillary thyroid cancer: Regional - 99 and Distant - 78
- Follicular thyroid cancer: Regional - 96 and Distant - 63
- Medullary thyroid cancer: Regional - 90 and Distant - 39
- Anaplastic thyroid cancer: Regional - 12 and Distant - 4
Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) classification is another type of classification that does not take into consideration stages I-IV by the AJCC. SEER only classifies thyroid cancer as local, regional or distant, depending on where it has spread. Your doctor will tell you which of these stages your cancer fits into.
The SEER database is maintained by the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
- Local: There is no sign that cancer has spread outside the thyroid.
- Regional: Cancer has grown outside the thyroid tissue and spreads to the nearby lymph nodes or other nearby tissue or structures.
- Distant: Cancer has spread to distant regions in the body such as the liver, lungs and so on.
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