The survival rates for thyroid cancer vary by the type and stage of the cancer. Overall, papillary and follicular thyroid cancers have the highest survival rates, especially if the cancer is detected early.

Thyroid cancer is a tumor that develops in the thyroid gland. This gland is responsible for making hormones your body uses to regulate important functions such as metabolism and heart rate.

Thyroid cancer often causes symptoms such as a visible lump in your neck, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness, and swollen lymph nodes.

Treatment for thyroid cancer generally involves surgery to remove the tumor. Treatment may also include:

  • radiation therapy
  • chemotherapy
  • radioiodine therapy

Typically, thyroid cancer is very treatable. In fact, some types of thyroid cancer have a 5-year survival rate of more than 99% when diagnosed and treated at an early stage.

Fast facts about thyroid cancer

  • There are four primary types of thyroid cancer: papillary, follicular, medullary, and anaplastic.
  • Up to 80% of thyroid cancer cases are papillary thyroid cancer.
  • Each year, about 45,000 people in the United States receive a thyroid cancer diagnosis.
  • An estimated 1.2% of people will develop thyroid cancer in their lifetime.
  • About 2% of all new cancer diagnoses each year are thyroid cancer.
  • About 0.3% of all cancer deaths each year are the result of thyroid cancer.
  • The average age at the time of thyroid cancer diagnosis is 51 years.
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The survival rates for thyroid cancer vary by the type and stage of the cancer.

For instance, early stage papillary thyroid cancer has a 5-year survival rate of more than 99%, but late stage anaplastic thyroid cancer has a 5-year survival rate of only 4%.

The table below provides a breakdown of 5-year survival rates by type of thyroid cancer and stage. The American Cancer Society has reported these rates based on data collected between 2012 and 2018.

Localized (early stage) cancer 5-year survival rateRegional cancer spread 5-year survival rateDistant (late stage) cancer 5-year survival rateOverall 5-year survival rate
Papillary thyroid cancermore than 99.5%99%74%more than 99.5%
Follicular thyroid cancermore than 99.5%98%67%98%
Medullary thyroid cancermore than 99.5%92%43%91%
Anaplastic thyroid cancer39%11%4%8%

Current survival rates might be higher than these data suggest. Treatments for thyroid cancer have improved since 2018. As a result, people with thyroid cancer are experiencing better outcomes.

What is a 5-year relative survival rate?

A 5-year relative survival rate compares the likelihood that a person with a particular diagnosis, such as thyroid cancer, will survive for 5 years, compared with people in the overall population.

So, if a condition has a 75% 5-year survival rate, that means, on average, people with that condition are 75% as likely to live for 5 more years as people without that condition.

Looking at thyroid cancer, this means that there’s very little difference in the 5-year survival rate of people who receive a diagnosis at an early stage and people who don’t have thyroid cancer.

However, people who have late stage thyroid cancer are less likely than those without thyroid cancer to live for 5 more years.

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A variety of factors can affect survival rates for thyroid cancer.

As you can see in the table above, the type of thyroid cancer and the stage at diagnosis are important factors that affect survival rates. But there are also other factors, such as:

  • Your age: Typically, younger people have better outcomes.
  • Your overall health: Other medical conditions may make it more difficult to effectively treat thyroid cancer.
  • Effectiveness of treatment: Not everyone responds to treatment in the same way.

For many people, thyroid cancer is completely curable, especially if it’s caught at an earlier stage, before it spreads.

Most thyroid cancers have very high survival rates. Often, treatment can completely remove or destroy the tumor.

Anaplastic thyroid cancer has a lower survival rate than other types of thyroid cancer, but it is the rarest type.

Thyroid cancer is a very treatable type of cancer. Survival rates vary based on the type of thyroid cancer and the stage at diagnosis.

Your age, your overall health, and how well your treatment works can also influence your outlook.

However, most types of thyroid cancer have high survival rates. Anaplastic thyroid cancer, which has the lowest survival rate, is also the rarest type of thyroid cancer.