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Thyroid Cancer Prognosis

Factors that can affect a person's prognosis for thyroid cancer include such things as the type and location of the cancer, the stage, its grade, and the person's age and general health. Doctors will also consider statistics from hundreds, or even thousands, of cases of the thyroid cancer; however, it's important to understand that a prognosis is only a prediction.

The Prognosis for Thyroid Cancer: An Introduction

People facing thyroid cancer are naturally concerned about what the future holds. Understanding this disease and what to expect can help people and their loved ones:
Many people with thyroid cancer want to know their prognosis. They may ask their doctor or search for thyroid cancer statistics on their own.

What Is a Prognosis?

A prognosis is a medical opinion as to the likely course and outcome of a disease. In other words, the prognosis is the chance that a person will recover or have a recurrence (return of the cancer). Many factors can affect a person's thyroid cancer prognosis, which include:
  • The type and location of the cancer
  • The stage of the disease (the extent to which the cancer has metastasized, or spread -- see Thyroid Cancer Staging)
  • Its grade (how abnormal the cancer cells look, and how quickly the cancer is likely to grow and spread)
  • The person's age, general health, and response to treatment.
The prognosis is better for patients younger than 40 years of age who have cancer that has not spread beyond the thyroid.
When doctors consider a person's prognosis, they carefully examine all of the factors that could affect that person's disease and treatment, and then try to predict what might happen.
The doctor bases the prognosis on information researchers have collected over many years about hundreds, or even thousands, of people with thyroid cancer. When possible, the doctor will use statistics based on groups of people whose situations are most similar to that of an individual patient.
Your doctor may speak of a favorable thyroid cancer prognosis if the disease is likely to respond well to treatment. The prognosis may be unfavorable if the cancer is likely to be difficult to control. However, it is important to remember that a prognosis is only a prediction -- the doctor cannot be absolutely certain about the outcome for a particular patient.
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