Thyroid Cancer Diagnosis Papillary Carcinoma

Papillary thyroid cancer, also called papillary carcinoma, is the most common form of thyroid cancer, accounting for about 80 percent of all thyroid cancer cases. Fortunately, papillary carcinoma is also the most curable of all thyroid cancer types. A slow-growing cancer that usually begins in the follicular cells of the thyroid, papillary carcinoma tumors typically occur in only one lobe of the thyroid, although they can form in both.

Women are three times as likely as men to be diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer, although researchers have not yet discovered why. This form of cancer is most common in people between the ages of 20 and 40.

Treating Papillary Carcinoma/Thyroid Cancer

Experts tend to agree that surgery is the best treatment for papillary thyroid cancer, but don’t always agree on how much of the thyroid gland should be removed.

In some situations, if the cancer appears to be confined to one lobe of the thyroid, a surgeon will only remove that half. But if the cancer appears to have spread to the lymph nodes in the neck or to the other “wing” of this butterfly-shaped organ, or if the patient’s medical history warrants it, a more extensive surgery is needed. Some surgeons lean towards a total thyroidectomy (removal of the thyroid gland) to reduce the possibility of recurrence.

After surgery, some patients receive doses of radioactive iodine, which is toxic to cells. Since thyroid cells are the only cells in the body that absorb iodine, doctors use this treatment to kill off any lingering and possibly cancerous thyroid cells.

Papillary Thyroid Cancer Prognosis

The cure rate for patients with papillary carcinoma is very high, particularly for small lesions found early in young people. While papillary thyroid cancer often spreads to the lymph nodes (50 percent of the time with small tumors and 75 percent of the time with large tumors), it does not necessarily correlate with a higher mortality rate.

Lymph node metastasis, or spread of cancer to the lymph nodes, is linked to a greater likelihood of thyroid cancer recurrence.

Papillary Carcinoma – Thyroid Cancer Follow-Up

After complete or partial removal of the thyroid, patients are commonly put on a lifetime regime of replacement thyroid hormones. The medication keeps hormone levels on track for those who have had their full thyroid glands removed, and will suppress thyroid cell — and potential cancer — growth in those who still have some of their thyroid left.

After treatment, patients with papillary carcinoma will need to see their physicians for regular check-ups, including physical exams, blood work and annual chest x-rays.


Norman, J. (2010). Papillary cancer: The most common thyroid cancer. Retrieved March 23, 2010, from the Web site:

Thyroid Center Staff. (n.d.). Thyroid cancer: Papillary. Retrieved March 23, 2010, from the Columbia University Medical Center Web site: Staff. (n.d.). Thyroid cancer. Retrieved March 23, 2010, from the Web site:

American Cancer Society Staff. (n.d.). What is thyroid cancer? Retrieved March 23, 2010, from the American Cancer Society Web site: content/CRI_2_4_1X_What_is_thyroid_cancer_43.asp?sitearea=.