• Lewis

Papillary Thyroid Cancer: A Background

Updated: Oct 12, 2020

Just like I did with HL, I suppose another educational post on PTC is a necessary evil...

A Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma (PTC) is the most common malignant condition of the Thyroid gland, with around 80% of diagnosed thyroid cancers being of the papillary variety. The Thyroid gland secrets hormones called Triiodothyronine and Thyroxin. These hormones are primarily responsible for the regulation of a person's metabolism.

PTC most often occurs in those aged 20-55, females and/or those of a White or Asian ethnic background. It is usually a slow-growing malignancy and can be common in patients that have received radiation to the head and neck in the past, or those who have pre-existing Thyroid disorders.

PTC metastases (spreads) to local lymph nodes in around 50% of cases, however, for it to spread to the liver, lungs or bone marrow is quite rare.

The main treatments for Thyroid cancer are surgery and radioactive iodine treatment. In cases where the tumour is located on one side of the Thyroid and measures 1cm or less a hemithyroidectomy (where one lobe of the Thyroid gland is removed) is usually sufficient. However, if the tumour is larger a total thyroidectomy with lymph node dissection is typically the answer, this is where they remove the entire gland alongside the lymph nodes located around the Thyroid. A total thyroidectomy is usually followed by radioactive iodine treatment to kill any remaining thyroid cells and any metastases. Those that undergo a total thyroidectomy will have to take Thyroid hormone replacement for the rest of their lives.

The Thyroid gland absorbs iodine to create Thyroid hormones; therefore, iodine with a radioactive element attached is a very effective method of killing cells. This is usually taken as a single tablet or a drink. You are generally kept in hospital overnight for observation.

The staging of Thyroid cancer is slightly more complicated than the staging of Hodgkin's disease, so if that is something that interests you the Cancer Research UK website has beneficial information. (https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/thyroid-cancer/stages-types/stages-papillary-follicular)

Overall, Papillary carcinomas of the Thyroid have an excellent outlook. They carry an overall survival rate of between 90-98% for all stages of the disease.