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Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) is the most common type of thyroid cancer, comprising about 80% of all thyroid cancer cases. Despite its prevalence, it's also known for its treatability and generally favorable prognosis.


What Is Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma?

Papillary thyroid carcinoma originates in the follicular cells of the thyroid gland, which is located in the front part of your neck. This type of cancer has a distinctive papillary structure, viewed under a microscope, which is how it gets its name. PTC is more common in women than in men and typically occurs in people aged 30 to 50.

Symptoms of Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma

In many cases, papillary thyroid carcinoma doesn't cause any overt symptoms. When symptoms do present, they may include:

  • A lump or swelling in the neck
  • Difficulty swallowing or breathing
  • Hoarseness or a change in voice
  • Persistent cough not related to a cold

Causes and Risk Factors

The exact cause of papillary thyroid carcinoma remains largely unknown. However, certain factors may increase the risk of developing the disease, including:

  • Exposure to radiation: History of radiation exposure, particularly during childhood, increases the risk of papillary thyroid carcinoma.
  • Gender and age: Women are more likely to develop PTC than men, and it most commonly affects people aged 30 to 50.
  • Genetic predisposition: A family history of thyroid cancer can increase the risk, as can certain genetic conditions.

Diagnosis and Treatment

  • Diagnosis: Diagnosis of papillary thyroid carcinoma usually involves a combination of physical exams, blood tests to check thyroid function, ultrasound imaging of the thyroid gland, and fine-needle aspiration biopsy to examine thyroid cells.
  • Treatment Options: The treatment plan for papillary thyroid carcinoma depends on the stage of the cancer, the patient's age, and overall health. Treatment options include:
  • Surgery: The primary treatment for PTC is surgery to remove the thyroid gland (thyroidectomy). Depending on the cancer's spread, lymph nodes in the neck may also be removed.
  • Radioactive iodine therapy: After thyroidectomy, radioactive iodine therapy may be used to destroy any remaining thyroid tissue or cancer cells.
  • Thyroid hormone therapy: Post-surgery, patients usually undergo thyroid hormone therapy to replace the hormones the thyroid gland would typically produce and to help prevent the cancer from returning.
  • External radiation therapy and chemotherapy: These treatments are less common but may be employed in advanced cases of PTC.


While papillary thyroid carcinoma is the most common thyroid cancer, its high treatability and favorable prognosis mean that a diagnosis is far from dire. Awareness of the symptoms, understanding the risk factors, and undergoing regular medical check-ups can play a significant role in early detection and effective treatment. For comprehensive thyroid cancer treatment in India, American Oncology Institute is recognized as the top multi-disciplinary oncology hospital known for its expertise and advanced care.