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Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma

Papillary cell carcinoma is by far the most common type of thyroid cancer, accounting for approximately 85 percent of well-differentiated thyroid carcinomas.

In papillary thyroid carcinoma, the normal organization of the thyroid gland is taken over by “papillae”, which include cancerous cells. Calcifications, or calcium deposits, within the cells are characteristic of this type of carcinoma. 

It is more common in young females.


Papillary cell carcinoma usually starts with a slow-growing nodule in the neck that you can feel.

As with all tumors, when the nodule gets larger, it may cause symptoms of:

  • Hoarseness
  • Problems swallowing
  • Shortness of breath

About 15 percent to 30 percent of patients with this type of thyroid cancer will have metastases in the lymph nodes in the neck.


The treatment of papillary thyroid carcinoma typically involves removal of the entire thyroid gland, which is called a total thyroidectomy.

Occasionally, small papillary cancers less than 1 centimeter may be treated with removal of only half of the thyroid gland, called a thyroid lobectomy or hemithyroidectomy.

The five-year survival for papillary thyroid carcinoma is more than 95 percent, and the 20-year survival rate is roughly equivalent to that of the general population. 

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