Anaplastic thyroid cancer

An aggressive form of cancer of the thyroid gland.

Alternative Names

Anaplastic carcinoma of the thyroid

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Anaplastic thyroid cancer grows very rapidly and is an invasive type of thyroid cancer . It occurs most often in people over 60 years. The cause is unknown. Thyroid function tests are usually normal. Anaplastic cancer accounts for only about 1% of all thyroid cancers and is a very rare disease.

Signs and tests

A physical examination may show a neck mass.

  • A
  • thyroid biopsy shows anaplastic carcinoma
  • An
  • isotope study of the thyroid ( thyroid scan ) shows this mass to be "cold" meaning it does not take up the isotype.
  • A CT scan or MRI may show a tumor growing from the thyroid gland.
  • An examination of the airway with a fiberoptic scope (
  • laryngoscopy ) may show a paralyzed vocal cord.


    This type of cancer is treated with surgery to remove the tumor , or radiation therapy or both. Surgery may require placement of a tube in the throat to help breathing ( tracheostomy ). This tumor is not responsive to radioactive iodine, which is used to treat other types of thyroid cancer. It is also usually not responsive to chemotherapy.

    Support groups

    The stress of illness can often be helped by joining a support group where members share common experiences and problems. See cancer - support group .

    Expectations (prognosis)

    The prognosis of this disease is poor. Less than 5% of patients survive 5 years. Most people do not survive longer than 6 months.


  • spread of tumor within the neck
  • metastasis
  • (spread) of
  • cancer to other body tissues or organs

    Calling your health care provider

    Call your health care provider if there is a persistent lump or mass in the neck, hoarseness , changing voice, cough or coughing up blood .

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