Cancer Home > Types of Thyroid Cancer

There are four main thyroid cancer types: papillary, follicular, medullary, and anaplastic. The papillary and follicular forms are the most common, and both of these types tend to grow slowly. Medullary thyroid cancer arises in C cells and is easier to control if it is found and treated before it spreads. The least common type is anaplastic thyroid cancer, which is hard to detect and often spreads quickly.

An Introduction to Thyroid Cancer Types

There are four main types of thyroid cancer; each one is based on how the cancer cells look under a microscope. These forms of thyroid cancer include:
  • Papillary
  • Follicular
  • Medullary
  • Anaplastic.
If the cancer spreads outside of the thyroid, it is called metastatic thyroid cancer.

Understanding the Thyroid

The thyroid is a gland that is shaped like a butterfly and lies at the front of the neck, beneath the voice box (larynx).
A healthy thyroid:
  • Is a little larger than a quarter and cannot be felt through the skin
  • Is made up of two parts (lobes) that are separated by a thin section called the isthmus
  • Has two kinds of cells, follicular cells and C cells, which produce hormones.
Follicular cells make thyroid hormone, which affects heart rate, body temperature, and energy level. C cells make calcitonin, which is a hormone that helps control the level of calcium in the blood. A swollen lobe (goiter) might look or feel like a lump in the front of the neck and is usually the result of not getting enough iodine in the diet. Iodine is a substance that is found in shellfish and iodized salt.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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