Thyroid Cancer: Statistics

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 02/2021

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 44,280 adults (12,150 men and 32,130 women) in the United States will be diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Thyroid cancer is the seventh most common cancer in women.

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 2% annually in women from 2013 to 2017. Rates in men stabilized during the same period.

Between 2007 and 2016, the largest increases in new cases of thyroid cancer occurred in adolescents ages 15 to 19, with an almost 4% increase in females and an almost 5% increase in males.

It is estimated that 2,200 deaths (1,050 men and 1,150 women) from this disease will occur this year. The death rate rose by just over half a percent annually from 2009 to 2018, but has stayed steady in recent years. Women are 3 times more likely to have thyroid cancer than men. However, 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 almost 100% for localized papillary, follicular, and medullary thyroid cancers. For localized anaplastic thyroid cancer, the 5-year survival rate is 31%.

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 99%. For regional follicular cancer, the rate is 97%, and for regional medullary cancer, the rate is 91%. For regional anaplastic thyroid cancer, the rate is 10%.

Medullary and anaplastic thyroid cancers, which together make up 3% 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 76%. For metastatic follicular thyroid cancer, the rate is 64%. The rate for metastatic medullary thyroid cancer is 38%. 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 & Figures 2021 and Cancer Facts & Figures 2020, and the ACS website (sources accessed February 2021).

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.