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Thyroid cancer - papillary carcinoma

  • Alternative Names

    Papillary carcinoma of the thyroid


    There are three types of thyroid cancer treatment:

    • Surgery
    • Radioactive iodine
    • Medication

    Surgery is done to remove as much of the cancer as possible. The bigger the lump, the more of the thyroid gland must be removed. Frequently, the entire gland is taken out.

    After the surgery, most patients should receive radioactive iodine, which is usually taken by mouth. This substance kills any remaining thyroid tissue. It also helps make medical images more clear, so doctors can see if there is any additional cancer.

    If surgery is not an option, external radiation therapy can be useful.

    After surgery or radioactive iodine, the patient will need to take medication called levothyroxine sodium for the rest of their life. This replaces the hormone that the thyroid would normally make.

    Most patients who had thyroid cancer need to a blood test every 6 - 12 months to check thyroid levels. Other follow-up tests that may done after treatment for thyroid cancer include:

    • Ultrasound of the thyroid done in the first year
    • An imaging test called a radioactive iodine (I-131) uptake scan

    Support Groups

    Expectations (prognosis)

    The survival rate for papillary thyroid cancer is excellent. More than 95% of adults with such cancer survive at least 10 years. The prognosis is better for patients younger than 40 and for those with smaller tumors.

    The following factors may decrease the survival rate:

    • Age over 45
    • Cancer has spread to distant parts of the body
    • Cancer has spread to soft tissue
    • Large tumor


    Complications include:

    • Accidental removal of the parathyroid gland, which helps regulate blood calcium levels
    • Damage to a nerve that controls the vocal cords
    • Spreading of cancer to lymph nodes (rare)
    • Spreading of cancer to other sites (metastasis)

    Calling your health care provider

    Call your health care provider if you have a lump in your neck.