The thyroid gland, shaped like a butterfly’s wings, is located at the base of the neck under your Adam’s apple. It produces hormones that regulate your heart, temperature, and weight. There are four types of thyroid cancer with a combined survival rate of 99%. Of the more than 53,000 Americans who receive a thyroid cancer diagnosis every year, less than 2,000 cases are fatal.
What are the different types of thyroid cancer?
There are four different types of thyroid cancer:
- Papillary thyroid cancer is the most common (80% of all cases) and occurs in the cells that produce and store hormones, called follicular cells. It usually affects people between the ages of 30 to 50, although it can occur at any age.
- Follicular thyroid cancer comprises about 15% of all cases. It also occurs in the follicular cells, but it usually happens to people over age 50 and is more likely to spread to bones or lungs.
- Medullary thyroid cancer starts in the thyroid’s C cells, which produce the hormone calcitonin. If a blood test shows high levels of calcitonin, it could point to medullary thyroid cancer at an early stage, when it is the most treatable. Medullary thyroid cancer may be part of hereditary multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome.
- Anaplastic thyroid cancer is rarer, comprising only 2% of cases. It also begins in the follicular cells, grows rapidly, and is difficult to treat. This very aggressive type usually occurs in people over age 60.
Other very rare types of thyroid cancer include:
- Thyroid lymphoma, which begins in the thyroid’s immune system
- Thyroid sarcoma, which begins in the thyroid’s connective tissue.