Thyroid cancer, also called thyroid carcinoma, can occur in any part of the thyroid.

Depending on which tissue of the thyroid gland the tumor originates from, the following forms of thyroid cancer are distinguished:

  • Differentiated carcinoma (papillary or follicular carcinoma)
  • Medullary carcinoma
  • undifferentiated carcinoma

In addition, there are malignant tumors that do not originate in the epithelium of the thyroid gland, such as lymphomas (cancer of the lymphatic tissue) and sarcomas that develop in the connective tissue. In the following, we will focus only on thyroid carcinoma. In three-quarters of cases, thyroid carcinoma develops from thyroid follicular cells, which produce thyroid hormones (triiodothyronine/thyroxine). Tumors of this origin are referred to as differentiated carcinomas.

Among them, the most common are the so-called papillary carcinomas, they make up 50% of all thyroid cancers. Adults aged between 40 and 50 years of age are especially often affected. Papillary carcinoma creates multiple tumor foci in one or both lobes of the thyroid gland. Slightly less common follicular carcinoma (approximately 20 to 30% cases), it creates mostly single nodes. This type of carcinoma is more common in iodine-deficient areas and primarily affects people in their 50s. Much less common are medullary carcinomas, also called C-cell carcinomas (5-10%). They originate from calcitonin-producing C-cells located singly or in groups between thyroid follicles and are responsible for the regulation of calcium metabolism. Also rare are the so-called undifferentiated or anaplastic carcinomas (5-10%), which occur almost exclusively in older people (after 50 or 60).

Thyroid cancer can occur at any age, but reaches its maximum between the fourth and fifth decades of life. Women suffer from this disease much more often than men. With a constant number of new diseases in recent years, the number of deaths has slightly decreased in both women and men.

In general, the prospects for recovery with early detection of thyroid cancer are good. Thyroid carcinomas are a rare cause of death. Studies in different countries have shown that on average more than 90% patients diagnosed with thyroid cancer after 10 years are still alive.

Professor, MD, PhD
Head of the Clinic for General, Visceral, Thoracic and Endocrine Surgery
Professor, MD, PhD
Head of the Clinic for General and Visceral Surgery
Professor, MD, PhD
Head of the Nuclear Medicine Clinic
Privatdozent, Doctor of Medical Sciences
Head of the Nuclear Medicine Clinic
Professor, MD, PhD
Head of the West German Center for Health and Diabetes