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Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma


  • Papillary thyroid carcinoma is also called PTC. It is a kind of tumor (abnormal growth) found in your thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped organ in the front area of your neck. The tumor grows from the follicular cells of your thyroid gland. These cells make thyroid hormones (special chemicals) that control how your body uses energy. When the cells grow and split without control or order, they often make too much tissue (tumor). You may be able to feel the tumor with your fingers and it may grow. The tumor may also be painless and you may not know it is there.
  • The cause of PTC may be inherited, or the cause may be unknown. You may have neck lumps, shortness of breath, bone pain, or trouble swallowing. Blood tests, genetic screening, biopsy, and imaging tests may be done to check for PTC. Imaging tests include computed tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET) scan, thyroid scan, and ultrasound. You may be treated with surgery, medicines, and radiation therapy. With treatment, your symptoms may be relieved and your PTC may be cured.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.


Surgery for PTC may cause injury to nearby nerves, tissues, and organs. You may have hoarseness of voice, trouble speaking, bleeding, or get an infection from surgery. Some treatments may cause nausea (upset stomach), vomiting (throwing up), or diarrhea. Even after treatment, the cancer may come back. You may need to have another surgery if the cancer returns. If PTC is left untreated, the tumor will continue to grow and your signs and symptoms may get worse. Untreated PTC may spread to other parts of your body, and you may die. Ask your caregiver if you have questions or concerns about your disease, treatment, or care.


Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.

Blood tests:

You may need blood taken to give caregivers information about how your body is working. The blood may be taken from your hand, arm, or IV.


is a small tube placed in your vein that is used to give you medicine or liquids.

Vital signs:

Caregivers will check your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and temperature. They will also ask about your pain. These vital signs give caregivers information about your current health.


  • Radioactive iodine: This medicine damages cells in your thyroid gland, decreasing the amount of thyroid hormone in your blood. This may help your body work better. After taking radioactive iodine, your thyroid gland may still make too much or not enough hormone. If this happens, you may still need to take thyroid medicine.
  • Thyroid hormone: You are given this medicine to bring your thyroid hormone level back to normal.

Treatment options:

  • Gene therapy: Cancer gene therapy is a procedure that puts normal or changed genes into the cells of your body. This is to replace bad or damaged genes in the treatment of genetic disorders. Ask your caregiver for more information about this treatment.
  • Surgery: You may need surgery to remove your thyroid gland. Lymph nodes (bean shaped tissue that can trap cancer) may also be removed. In some cases, a part of the thyroid gland may be left in place. Surgery is done to prevent cancer cells from spreading to other body organs. Ask your caregiver for more information about thyroid surgery.
  • Radiation therapy: This may include external beam radiation therapy. Radiation therapy uses x-rays or gamma rays to control bleeding, and shrink your tumor. It keeps cancer cells from splitting into new cells, which is one way cancer spreads. Lymph nodes with cancer are also treated with radiation. It may be given after surgery to kill the cancer cells that were not removed. Ask your caregiver for more information about external beam radiation therapy.


  • Imaging tests: Certain tests use a special dye to help pictures show up better. People who are allergic to iodine or shellfish (lobster, crab, or shrimp) may be allergic to some dyes. Tell your caregiver if you are allergic to shellfish, or have other allergies or medical conditions. The following tests may be done after your surgery to see if all of your cancer was removed:
    • Computed tomography scan: This is also called a CT scan. A special x-ray machine uses a computer to take pictures of your neck and chest. It may be used to look at your tissues, bones, muscles, and blood vessels. Before taking the pictures, you may be given dye through an IV in your vein.
    • Magnetic resonance imaging: This test is also called MRI. During the MRI, pictures of your thyroid gland are taken. An MRI may also be used to look at your organs, muscles, joints, bones, or blood vessels. You will need to lie still during the test. Never enter the MRI room with an oxygen tank, watch, or any other metal objects. This can cause serious injury.
    • Positron emission tomography scan: This test is also called a PET scan. A PET scan shows how much blood and oxygen is flowing to your neck area. It may also show other parts of the body with cancer if it has spread.
    • Thyroid scan: This test shows caregivers how well your thyroid is working. Radioactive dye is put into your IV or is given to you to drink. The working part of the thyroid gland absorbs (soaks up) the dye. Two to 48 hours later, caregivers put a machine called a scintillator over your neck. The machine takes pictures showing the areas of your thyroid that absorbed the dye.
    • Ultrasound: This is a test using sound waves to look inside your neck. Pictures of your thyroid gland show up on a TV-like screen.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma (Inpatient Care)

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