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What is thyroid cancer?

Thyroid cancer develops when the cells of the thyroid grow and divide in an abnormal way. There are several types of thyroid cancer. It is possible to have more than one type at once, although this is unusual.

Types of thyroid cancer
  • Papillary
    • most common type (about 70-80% of all thyroid cases)
    • develops from the follicular cells
    • tends to grow slowly
  • Follicular
    • about 15–20% of all thyroid cancer cases
    • develops from the follicular cells
    • includes Hürthle cell carcinoma, a less common subtype
  • Medullary
    • about 4% of all thyroid cancer cases
    • develops from the parafollicular cells (C-cells)
    • can run in families
    • may be associated with tumours in other glands
  • Anaplastic
    • a rare thyroid cancer (about 1% of all thyroid cancer cases)
    • may develop from papillary or follicular thyroid cancer
    • tends to grow quickly
    • usually occurs in people over 60

About 2900 people are diagnosed with thyroid cancer each year in Australia. Thyroid cancer can occur at any age. It affects almost three times as many women  as men – it is the seventh most common cancer affecting Australian women of all ages, and the most common cancer diagnosed in women aged 20–24.

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Understanding Thyroid Cancer

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