Programs / Events




Click on the type of cancer you would like to know more about.

Anaplastic thyroid cancer



Alternative Name

Anaplastic carcinoma of the thyroid

Overview

Anaplastic thyroid carcinoma is a rare and aggressive form of cancer of the thyroid gland.


Review Date: 3/2/2010

Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.



A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch).

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2009 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
adam.com

Risk Factors

Anaplastic thyroid cancer grows very rapidly and is an invasive type of thyroid cancer. It occurs most often in people over age 60. The cause is unknown.

Anaplastic cancer accounts for only about 1% of all thyroid cancers.

Signs/Symptoms

  • Cough
  • Coughing up blood
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Hoarseness or changing voice
  • Loud breathing
  • Lower neck mass, often noted to be rapidly enlarging
Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if there is a persistent lump or mass in the neck, hoarseness, changing voice, cough, or coughing up blood.

Treatment

This type of cancer cannot be cured by surgery. For most patients, complete removal of the thyroid gland does not prolong their life.

Of other treatment options, only radiation therapy combined with chemotherapy give significant benefit.

Surgery to place a tube in the throat to help with breathing (tracheostomy) or in the stomach to help with eating (gastrostomy) may be needed.

For some patients, enrolling in a clinical trial of new thyroid cancer treatments may be an option.

Outlook

The prognosis of this disease is poor. Most people do not survive longer than 6 months due to the aggressive nature of this disease and lack of effective treatment options.


Complications

  • Spread of tumor within the neck
  • Metastasis (spread) of cancer to other body tissues or organs
Signs & Testing

A physical examination almost always show a neck mass.

  • A CT scan or MRI of the neck may show a tumor growing from the thyroid gland.
  • A thyroid biopsy shows anaplastic cancer.
  • An examination of the airway with a fiberoptic scope (laryngoscopy) may show a paralyzed vocal cord.
  • A thyroid scan shows this mass to be "cold," meaning it does not absorb a radioactive isotope.

Thyroid function blood tests are usually normal.