The American Cancer Society’s most recent estimates for thyroid cancer in the United States are for 2010:
In general, this is one of the least deadly cancers. The 5-year survival rate (the percentage of people living at least 5 years after being diagnosed) for all cases is about 97 percent.
Thyroid cancer is different from many other adult cancers in that it is commonly diagnosed in younger people. Nearly 2 of 3 cases are found in people between the ages of 20 and 55.
The chance of being diagnosed with thyroid cancer has risen in recent years and is now more than twice what it was in 1990. Some of this increase may be the result of the increased use of thyroid ultrasound, which detects small thyroid nodules that might not otherwise have been found. Still, at least part of the increase is from finding more larger tumors, as well. The death rate from thyroid cancer has been fairly stable for many years, and remains extremely low compared with most cancers.
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. Whether or not you want to read about the survival statistics below for thyroid cancer is up to you.
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 assume that some people will die of other causes and compare the observed survival with that expected for people without the 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.
Early thyroid cancer often does not have symptoms. But as the cancer grows, symptoms may include:
A lump in the front of the neck
Hoarseness or voice changes
Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
Trouble swallowing or breathing
Pain in the throat or neck that does not go away
Most often, these symptoms are not due to cancer. An infection, a benign goiter, or another health problem is usually the cause of these symptoms. Anyone with symptoms that do not go away in a couple of weeks should see a doctor to be diagnosed and treated as early as possible.
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. Many other factors may affect a person’s outlook, such as their age and general health. Your doctor can tell you how the numbers below may apply to you, as he or she is familiar with the aspects of your particular situation.
The following survival statistics come from the AJCC Cancer Staging Manual (7th ed).