Thyroid Cancer: Statistics

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 09/2016

ON THIS PAGE: You will find information about the number of people who are diagnosed with thyroid cancer each year. You will read general information on surviving the disease. Remember, survival rates depend on several factors. Use the menu to see other pages.

This year, an estimated 56,870 adults (14,400 men and 42,470 women) in the United States will be diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Thyroid cancer is the fifth most common cancer in women. It is the most common cancer in women 20 to 34. About 2% of cases occur in children and teens.

The incidence rates of thyroid cancer in both women and men have been increasing in recent years, at a rate of about 5% more a year. In fact, it is the most rapidly increasing cancer diagnosis in the United States. Researchers believe that part of the reason for the increase is that new, highly sensitive diagnostic tests are leading to increased detection of smaller cancers.

It is estimated that 2,010 deaths (920 men and 1,090 women) from this disease will occur this year. Women are 3 times more likely to have thyroid cancer than men, but women and men die at similar rates. This suggests that men have a worse prognosis than women when there is a diagnosis of thyroid cancer. Prognosis is the chance of recovery.

The 5-year survival rate tells you what percent of people live at least 5 years after the cancer is found. Percent means how many out of 100. Overall, the 5-year survival rate for people with thyroid cancer is 98%.

However, survival rates are based on many factors, including the specific type of thyroid cancer, and stage of disease. If the cancer is located only in the thyroid, the 5-year survival rate is greater than 99%. If thyroid cancer has spread to surrounding tissues or organs and/or the regional lymph nodes, the 5-year survival rate is 98%. If the cancer has spread to a distant part of the body, the 5-year survival rate is 55%.

It is important to remember that statistics on the survival rates for people with thyroid cancer are an estimate. The estimate comes from annual data based on the number of people with this cancer in the United States. Also, experts measure the survival statistics every 5 years. So the estimate may not show the results of better diagnosis or treatment available for less than 5 years. People should talk with their doctor if they have questions about this information. Learn more about understanding statistics.

Statistics adapted from the American Cancer Society's (ACS) publication, Cancer Facts & Figures 2017, and the ACS website.

The next section in this guide is Medical Illustrations. It offers drawings of body parts often affected by this disease. Or, use the menu to choose another section to continue reading this guide.