Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer

Background

  • Anaplastic thyroid cancer (ATC) is a rare type of thyroid cancer
  • This mostly occurs in patients over 65years old
  • ATC grows quickly, the cause is unknown at this time
  • Some patients may have a history of an enlarged thyroid gland or other types of thyroid cancer

Signs and Symptoms

  • Patients with ATC usually have a rapidly growing, hard lump in the neck
  • Other symptoms include trouble swallowing, or breathing and a hoarse or changed voice

Diagnosis

  • A biopsy is needed for diagnosis, either a fine needle aspiration (FNA) or core needle
  • Sometimes the diagnosis is not clear, and a surgical biopsy is needed
  • Imaging with CT, MRI and/or PET scan is done to look for cancer spread to other parts of the body
  • Specific symptoms such as voice changes may require additional evaluation

Treatment

  • Rare cancers are best treated by a multidisciplinary team of doctors including a surgeon, endocrinologist, and oncologist
  • If the cancer is found before it has spread beyond the thyroid, surgery can be done to remove the cancer
  • Surgery may be performed to help relieve symptoms even if the cancer has spread such as tracheostomy to help breathing or a feeding tube for nutrition
  • All patients should ask about eligibility for a clinical trial
  • Chemotherapy, external beam radiation, and other treatments may be needed

Prognosis

  • ATC are considered Stage IV cancers with poor prognosis
  • Average survival is 6-12 months
  • While rare, there are long-term survivors

Summary

  • Anaplastic thyroid cancer (ATC) is a rare cancer
  • ATC usually occurs in older patients
  • Patients usually have a fast growing, hard neck mass
  • ATC is one of the most aggressive types of cancers with poor prognosis
  • Surgery is used if the cancer has not spread or to relieve symptoms
  • Treatment usually involves enrollment in a clinical trial for chemotherapy or targeted therapy