When you think of the different types of cancer, chances are you list the usual culprits: breast cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer, etc. But what about thyroid cancer? In reality, thyroid cancer is becoming increasingly more common. In terms of the number of new diagnoses per year, it's in the top 10.

Here are the numbers behind thyroid cancer and what you should know about them.

1. Thyroid Cancer Diagnoses Are On The Rise

In 2014, thyroid cancer made up 3.8% of all new cancer cases, but only 0.3% of all cancer deaths, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) reports.

Thyroid cancer is the fastest growing cancer in the US in terms of new diagnoses, the American Cancer Society (ACS) says. This is largely due to increased use of ultrasound technology capable of detecting small thyroid nodules that would have previously gone unnoticed.

Today, thyroid cancer is on the top 10 list of most commonly diagnosed cancers in the US, according to the NCI. Of those top 10 most common cancer diagnoses in 2014, thyroid cancer ranked ninth with 62,980 new cases.

But compared to the rest of the top 10, thyroid cancer had the lowest number of deaths by far: 1,890. The second lowest death rate”for endometrial cancer”was more than four times higher than thyroid cancer.

2. But Survival Rates For Thyroid Cancer Are Increasing, Too

Even though the number of new cases of thyroid cancer has risen, so has the survival rate: from 92.3% in 1975 to 98.2% in 2006.

In comparison, the five-year survival rate for all types of cancer is 66.1%, according to the NCI.

The five-year survival rate for thyroid cancer patients depends in part on which stage the cancer has reached.

Source: National Cancer Institute

5-Year Survival Rates

Localized: 99.9% : 68% of cases are located only in the thyroid

Regional: 97.6% : 26% of cases have spread to nearby lymph nodes.

Distant: 54.7% : 4% of cases haves spread past the thyroid and lymp nodes.

Unstaged: 88.1% : 2% of cases have unknown status.

Source: National Cancer Institute

3. Thyroid Cancer Is Generally Diagnosed At A Younger Age

Two-thirds of thyroid cancer patients are diagnosed before the age of 55, the ACS says. In fact, the median age at diagnosis is 50 years old, according to the NCI.

For all types of cancer combined, the median age is 66 years old. Women are three times more likely to get thyroid cancer than men, the American Cancer Society reports.

4. Treatment Options For Thyroid Cancer

The treatment course for thyroid cancer depends on the type and stage of cancer, says the ACS. Sometimes, a combination of treatments may be used.

Source: American Cancer Society


Surgery is usually the main form of treatment for most types of thyroid cancer, the ACS says.

Surgical treatment for thyroid cancer includes:

  • Lobectomy: The cancerous portion of the thyroid gland is removed.
  • Thyroidectomy: The entire thyroid gland is removed.
  • Lymph node removal: The nearby lymph nodes are removed if the cancer has spread to them as well.

Radioactive Iodine Treatment

During this treatment, a person ingests radioactive iodine”usually as a liquid or capsule”which concentrates in the thyroid cells. The radiation then destroys the thyroid gland and cancerous cells. This process has very little effect on the rest of the body.

Thyroid Hormone Therapy

Thyroid hormone therapy”in the form of pills taken daily”can both stop cancer cell growth and help a patient's body maintain a balanced metabolism.

External Beam Radiation Therapy

As its name implies, this form of treatment sends a beam of high-energy radiation rays that can either destroy or slow cancer cell growth.

External beam radiation therapy is generally only used for two specific types of thyroid cancer: medullary thyroid cancer and anaplastic thyroid cancer.


Traditional chemotherapy is usually only used for anaplastic thyroid cancer in combination with external beam radiation therapy.

Targeted Therapy

This newer treatment option involves taking specialized drugs that home in on the changes that cause cells to become cancerous.

Find a physician at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center who can help you determine the best course of treatment for your thyroid cancer.