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  • Staging and prognosis of thyroid cancer



    Some tests show if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. This is called staging. Knowing the stage helps doctors recommend the best treatment for you. It is often not possible to completely stage the cancer until after surgery.

    There are different ways of staging cancers. However most cancers follow a general international staging system known as TNM (tumour, nodes, metastasis). Numbers or letters may be used after the T, N and M to provide more details. For example, a T1 tumour is smaller than a T2 tumour. The cancer may be grouped into further stages, based on your age and cancer type.

    TNM system


    Prognosis means the expected outcome of a disease. You may wish to discuss your prognosis and treatment options with your doctor but it is not possible for any doctor to predict the exact course of the disease. Instead your doctor can give you an idea of what may happen based on statistics and common issues that affect people with the same type of thyroid cancer as you.

    To work out your prognosis your doctor will consider:

    • your test results
    • the type of thyroid cancer you have
    • the rate of tumour growth
    • how well you respond to treatment
    • other factors such as your age, fitness and medical history.

    The most common types of thyroid cancer (papillary and follicular) have a very good long-term prognosis, especially if the cancer is found only in the thyroid or is confined to the nearby lymph nodes in the neck.

    Even if it has spread (metastasised) the outcome can still be very good. 

    This website page was last reviewed and updated March 2017.

    Information last reviewed January 2016 by: A/Prof Julie Miller, Specialist Endocrine Surgeon, The Royal Melbourne Hospital, Epworth Freemasons and Melbourne Private Hospitals, VIC; Polly Baldwin, Cancer Council Nurse, 13 11 20, Cancer Council SA; Dr Gabrielle Cehic, Nuclear Medicine Physician, Flinders Medical Centre, Lyell McEwin Hospital and The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, SA; Dr Kiernan Hughes, Endocrinologist, San Clinic Specialist Rooms & Chatswood Rooms, Northern Endocrine Pty Ltd, NSW; Dr Chris Pyke, A/Prof of Surgery, University of Queensland, Mater Hospital, Brisbane, QLD; and Jen Young, Consumer.




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