Which is the Most Common Type of Thyroid Cancer?

Today, we’re here to shed some light on thyroid cancer, a disease that, while less common than some other cancers, is nonetheless important to understand.

Thyroid cancer is a multifaceted disease with several types and subtypes, each requiring unique treatment approaches.

Types of Thyroid Cancer

Broadly speaking, we can classify thyroid cancer into two major categories: well-differentiated and poorly differentiated thyroid cancers. These two types are distinguished by their cellular structure and behavior.

Well-Differentiated Thyroid Cancer

Well-differentiated thyroid cancers typically have cells that resemble normal thyroid cells, often growing slowly and less likely to spread to other tissues. There are two main types:

  • Papillary Carcinoma of the Thyroid: This is the most common type of thyroid cancer, accounting for approximately 70-80% of all thyroid cancer cases. It generally grows slowly but may spread to lymph nodes in the neck. Despite this, the prognosis is usually very favorable with proper treatment.
  • Follicular Carcinoma of the Thyroid: This type is less common than papillary carcinoma but is still a significant subtype of thyroid cancer. It tends not to spread to the lymph nodes but can metastasize to other parts of the body, such as the lungs or bones.

Poorly Differentiated Thyroid Cancer

On the other side of the spectrum, poorly differentiated thyroid cancers are characterized by cells that look and behave less like normal cells. They typically grow more rapidly and have a higher likelihood of spreading to other tissues.

Anaplastic carcinoma of the thyroid is a type of poorly differentiated cancer. It’s less common but far more aggressive, with a less favorable prognosis.

Another rare type is Lymphoma of the Thyroid, which behaves differently and requires distinct treatment strategies.

Also, Read- Can thyroid cancer be treated successfully?

Diagnostic Pathway: FNAC and Tru-Cut Biopsy

Fine-Needle Aspiration Cytology (FNAC) or a Tru-Cut Biopsy are essential diagnostic tools that help differentiate between well-differentiated and poorly differentiated thyroid cancers.

These procedures involve taking a small sample of cells or tissue from the thyroid for analysis under a microscope.

Treatment Options: Personalized and Targeted

Treatment strategies for thyroid cancer vary significantly depending on the cancer type and stage.

Well-Differentiated Thyroid Cancer

For well-differentiated thyroid cancers, surgical intervention plays a central role. This can range from a hemithyroidectomy, where only part of the thyroid gland is removed, to a total thyroidectomy, where the entire gland is excised. Lymph node dissection may be performed if the cancer has spread to the surrounding nodes.

However, the specific surgical approach and additional treatments depend on the cancer’s size, spread, and other staging reports.

Poorly Differentiated Thyroid Cancer and Anaplastic Cancer

Surgery is limited in managing poorly differentiated thyroid cancers, including anaplastic thyroid cancer. In most cases, chemotherapy is the primary treatment option. While some surgeons might recommend surgery, clinical observations indicate that these patients often do not respond well to surgical interventions.

Anaplastic thyroid cancer, in particular, has a relatively poor prognosis. Unfortunately,  survival rates suggest that 60-70% of patients survive less than six months post-diagnosis.

Lymphoma of the Thyroid

Lymphoma of the thyroid necessitates a very different treatment strategy. Here, surgery and radioactive iodine therapy tend to be ineffective. Chemotherapy is the primary treatment, sometimes followed by radiation therapy, if necessary.

Related Blog- Late-stage Thyroid Cancer Survival Rate


The journey of managing thyroid cancer is unique to each patient, and outcomes can vary significantly depending on the type and stage of cancer. Well-differentiated cancers often have a favorable prognosis, with most patients leading a nearly everyday life post-treatment.

However, it’s crucial to remember that while these general patterns exist, every patient’s journey is unique, and treatments are tailored accordingly. Understanding these nuances is fundamental to improving all thyroid cancer patients’ outcomes and quality of life.

Please contact us if you have further questions or need more detailed information. We’re here to guide you through your health journey.

  • About Author

    Dr. Amit Chakraborty

    Cancer Surgeon

Dr. Amit Chakraborty is a Surgical Oncologist in Girgaon, Mumbai and has an experience of 15 years in this field. He is a well known cancer specialist with an expertise in diagnosing and treating head and neck cancer.

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