Thyroid Cancer: Statistics

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 01/2019

ON THIS PAGE: You will find information about the number of people who are diagnosed with thyroid cancer each year. You will also 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 52,070 adults (14,260 men and 37,810 women) in the United States will be diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Thyroid cancer is the sixth 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.

Until recently, thyroid cancer was the most quickly increasing cancer diagnosis in the United States. Researchers believe that part of the reason for the increase was that new, highly sensitive diagnostic tests led to increased detection of smaller cancers. The increase has now dropped from 7% annually during the 2000s to 1.5% annually from 2011 to 2015.

It is estimated that 2,170 deaths (1,020 men and 1,150 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, it is called localized thyroid cancer. About two-thirds of cases are diagnosed at this stage. The 5-year survival rate is greater than 99% for localized papillary, follicular, and medullary thyroid cancers. For localized anaplastic thyroid cancer, the 5-year survival rate is 30%.

If thyroid cancer has spread to nearby tissues or organs and/or the regional lymph nodes, it is called regional thyroid cancer. The 5-year survival rate for regional papillary thyroid cancer is greater than 99%. For regional follicular cancer, the rate is 96%, and for regional medullary cancer, the rate is 91%. For regional anaplastic thyroid cancer, the rate is 13%.

Medullary and anaplastic thyroid cancers, which together make up 5% of all thyroid cancers, are more likely to spread. If there is distant spread to other parts of the body, it is called metastatic disease. The 5-year survival rate for metastatic papillary thyroid cancer is 78%. For metastatic follicular thyroid cancer, the rate is 56%. The rate for metastatic medullary thyroid cancer is 37%. For metastatic anaplastic thyroid cancer, the rate is 3%.

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. Talk with your doctor if you have any questions about this information. Learn more about understanding statistics.

Statistics adapted from the American Cancer Society's (ACS) publications, Cancer Facts and Figures 2019 and Cancer Facts and Figures 2017: Special Section – Rare Cancers in Adults, and the ACS website (January 2019).

The next section in this guide is Medical Illustrations. It offers drawings of body parts often affected by thyroid cancer. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.