Papillary thyroid cancer, also known as papillary thyroid carcinoma, is the most common form of thyroid cancer. In fact, papillary thyroid cancer accounts for about 85% of thyroid cancers.1
Before we get to the basics of papillary thyroid cancer, we encourage you to read our thyroid gland overview. It provides an easy-to-understand explanation of the structure and function of the thyroid.
Papillary Thyroid Cancer: The Basics
Women are more likely to develop papillary thyroid cancer than men, and it is most common in people who are 30 to 50 years of age.
There is no known cause of papillary thyroid cancer. But researchers know that papillary thyroid cancer starts slowly—it most often grows in one lobe of the thyroid, though it is possible for it to be present in both lobes.
In many cases, people don't even realize they have the disease until their doctor notices an abnormal, albeit painless, lump near the thyroid. Your doctor may refer to this as a nodule, and you may read more about it in our article about thyroid nodules.
Sometimes, a thyroid nodule may be too small for your doctor to see or feel. Instead, an enlarged lymph node in your neck may alert your doctor to the presence of papillary thyroid cancer. Lymph nodes fight infection and are located throughout your body. But when the papillary thyroid cancer spreads to the lymph nodes, which it does in as many as 30% of patients, they become enlarged.2
But if papillary thyroid cancer is not treated early, it can metastasize (or spread throughout the body). The bones and lungs are common sites where papillary thyroid cancer metastasizes. But even if that does occur, the cancer may still be curable.
Though papillary thyroid cancer is the most common form of thyroid cancer, it is also the most treatable. You may read more about these treatments via these links:
For more information on this type of thyroid carcinoma, you may also read this comprehensive papillary thyroid cancer article.
New York Thyroid Center: Papillary Thyroid Cancer page. Columbia University Medical Center, Department of Surgery Web site. Available at: http://www.cumc.columbia.edu/dept/thyroid/papillary.html. Accessed February 15, 2010.