Thyroid Cancer: Statistics

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 01/2018

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 53,990 adults (13,090 men and 40,900 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 increased at a rate of about 4% a year from 2005 to 2014, which is the latest available data. 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 2,060 deaths (960 men and 1,100 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 56%.

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 any questions about this information. Learn more about understanding statistics.

Statistics adapted from the American Cancer Society's (ACS) publications, Cancer Facts and Figures 2018 and Cancer Facts and Figures 2017: Special Section – Rare Cancers in Adults, and the ACS website (January 2018).

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.