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Histologic Type Distinguishes Indolent Thyroid Cancers from More Aggressive Disease

Andrew Turk, MD
Published Online:3:14 PM, Thu September 19, 2019

Andrew Turk, MD, assistant professor of pathology and cell biology, Columbia University, discusses the main factors that can be used to determine whether a patient presenting with thyroid cancer has an indolent form of the disease or a more aggressive thyroid cancer.

The most common forms of thyroid cancer tend to behave more indolently. An example of this is papillary thyroid carcinoma, which behaves in a less aggressive fashion than other subtypes of the disease. However, forms of thyroid cancer like medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) and anaplastic thyroid cancer (ATC) can be more aggressive.

Most cases of MTC and ATC are usually more aggressive, says Turk. This is an example of how the histologic type of thyroid cancer can help a physician determine how aggressively the disease may behave.

Another feature that can determine the disease behavior includes the stage of disease; whether there are nodal or distant metastases can also distinguish whether the patient’s case of thyroid cancer will behave more indolently or aggressively than others.
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