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Thyroid cancer is uncommon. Each year, about 2,300 people in the UK are diagnosed with it.
It’s more common in women than men, and most women who have thyroid cancer are diagnosed between the ages of 35 and 39. Thyroid cancer in men is more likely to occur above the age of 70. It is rare in children.
There are different types of thyroid cancer, which are divided into four different groups. This is because of the way the thyroid cells look when examined| under a microscope.
This is the most common type of thyroid cancer. It’s slow-growing and is found more in younger people, mostly women.
This is a less common type of cancer, usually found in young or middle-aged people. Papillary and follicular thyroid cancers are sometimes grouped together under the name differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC), as they are often treated in the same way. Most differentiated thyroid cancers are cured.
This is a rare type of thyroid cancer that can run in families. For this reason, members of your family may be checked to see if they are also at risk of developing this cancer.
This is a rare type of thyroid cancer that is fast-growing. It’s more common in people over 60 and in women. Unlike other types of thyroid cancer, it can be very difficult to treat.
It’s also possible to have a lymphoma of the thyroid gland. This starts in the lymph tissue of the thyroid. The lymph tissue is part of the body’s lymphatic system. Most thyroid lymphomas are a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma| (NHL).
We have more information in our section on thyroid lymphoma|.
Your doctor will be able to tell which type of thyroid cancer you have by examining a sample of cells from the cancer. Apart from the anaplastic and lymphoma types, thyroid cancer tends to develop very slowly, and it may be some years before it starts to cause any problems. With treatment, the outlook for most people with thyroid cancer is very good and most people are cured, even if the cancer has spread beyond the thyroid.
Content last reviewed: 1 December 2012
Next planned review: 2014
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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