Papillary Thyroid Cancer – Symptoms, Prognosis, Survival Rate, Treatment

What is Papillary Thyroid Cancer?

Papillary Thyroid Cancer is also called as papillary thyroid carcinoma and it is the most common kind of thyroid cancer. Women are most commonly the ones reported to have it. It is a well-differentiated type of thyroid cancer, which may be overt or have minimal invasion. This is often seen in persons between the ages 20 and 50 years old and is often reportedly seen in Caucasian persons.

It appears as a cystic or solid irregular mass in a normal parenchyma of the thyroid gland. It is firm, single, free movable and asymptomatic in nature. Histologically speaking, it is a tumor that is un-encapsulated with follicular and papillary structures. In addition, there is a presence of branching of the papillae, which is composed of stratified or single lining of columnar to cuboidal cells and central fibrovascular core. The nuclei of the cancer cells have an appearance of ground glass.

Papillary Thyroid Cancer image

Papillary Thyroid Cancer

The good thing about it is that it is curable. However, most often the persons with this disease do not know that they actually have it because it is often asymptomatic.

Papillary Thyroid Cancer Symptoms

Most often, persons who are diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer do not manifest or complain of symptoms. They are asymptomatic in nature. Early in the course of this disease condition, one may have unnoticeable symptoms. As the disease progresses, the person may notice lump in the frontal portion of the neck, which is medically termed as the thyroid nodule. The mass is often reported as painless. Other symptoms include:

  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Soreness of the throat
  • Hoarseness of the voice
  • Swallowing discomfort
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Choking sensation
  • Neck swelling

Papillary Thyroid Cancer Causes

There have been a lot of factors that lead to the development of papillary thyroid cancer. According to research, the factors that could influence the development of this disease condition include:


The primary culprit behind this disease condition is genetics. It may run in the family and associated with genetic syndromes. Hence, persons should have a clear knowledge on the family history of this kind of disease. Persons having positive family history are at higher risk for acquiring this disease condition compared to those who do not have any in their family history.

Exposure to radiation

More often the cause of papillary thyroid cancer is exposure to radiation, specifically that of ionizing ration. Radiation, according to science, has the ability to induce thyroid cancer, which can happen anytime from a few years after the primary exposure to 50 years later. There are three ways wherein a person can acquire exposure to radiation such as:

Medical therapy

Person who have had to undergo radiation therapy in their upper chest, neck and head area are at risk for developing this disease condition. In addition, common cancers associated with the exposure to radiation of the thyroid gland include lymphoma, breast cancer, lung cancer and head and neck cancer.

Childhood exposure to radiation

Back in the days, x-ray treatment were widely used in the treatment of ringworm, enlargement of the tonsils, thymus enlarged gland, lymphomas to measurement of the sizes of the foot. Children who fall younger than 15 years are the ones who are more sensitive to the damages brought about by radioactive substance towards their thyroid glands.

Environmental exposure

Radioactivity that is released in nuclear accidents, which is an example of environmental exposure, may lead to the acquisition of papillary thyroid cancer. Another example is those who work at radiation plants or fields are at high risk of getting this disease condition.

Papillary Thyroid Cancer Treatment

The treatment of papillary thyroid cancer deals with three treatment methods, which are surgery, radioactive iodine and thyroid hormone replacement.


The surgical procedure is done to remove the cancer cells of the thyroid gland, which is medically known as a thyroidectomy. Other surgical procedures include total and partial thyroidectomy. Total thyroidectomy deals with removing the entire papillary thyroid cancer. Here, the thyroid gland is totally removed and may leave the person at risk for developing hypothyroidism in the long run. Meanwhile, the partial thyroidectomy deals with partial removal of the papillary thyroid cancer and thyroid gland. This kind of surgical procedure is good for persons who have papillary tumors that are small and are located in one lobe. This often is called a Lobectomy or the removal of one lobe.

Radioactive Iodine

For aggressive tumors, this is often used as a treatment for follow-up procedure. This is considered to be a safe therapy due to the fact that the cells of the thyroid gland are absorbing it. What happens is that the thyroid cells absorb the radioactive iodine, which leads to its destruction. The negative thing about it is that healthy thyroid cells can also absorb the radioactive iodine.

Thyroid Hormone Replacement

This treatment is given for persons who have undergone a surgical procedure. This will aid in the management of hypothyroidism after the total or partial thyroid gland is removed. This treatment involves the intake of T4 hormones.

Papillary Thyroid Cancer Prognosis

The prognosis will be the one who will determine the outlook for a person with papillary thyroid cancer. Generally, the prognosis of papillary thyroid cancer is good. The earlier the diagnosis is made, the better the prognosis. However, often the diagnosis is made late due to the fact that most persons with this kind of disease condition are asymptomatic.

Papillary Thyroid Cancer Survival rate

According to studies, the person with papillary thyroid cancer has a 5 to 10 year survival rate. Experts suggest that the staging is used to determine the survival rate of the person with this disease condition. If the person is in the first stage, there is a good chance of survival rate and as the stages increase the survival rate of the person decreases. There is an inverse proportion of the staging and the survival rate.

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