Anaplastic thyroid cancer is the rarest type of thyroid cancer and the most challenging to treat.  Anaplastic thyroid cancer cases are only 1% of all thyroid cancer cases, and the cure rate is low. The majority of patients do not live beyond one year from the day of diagnosis. The 3-year survival rate after diagnosis is 10%.

Signs and Symptoms of Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer

Patients suspected of having anaplastic thyroid cancer usually present with a large, rapidly growing tumor in the neck area.

Patients may also notice:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Hoarseness
  • Shortness of breath when laying down
  • Pain in neck, jaw or ears

Diagnosis of Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer

Anaplastic thyroid cancer is rarely discovered at an early stage. Most patients receive a diagnosis once the cancer has spread to distant sites, such as the lungs, bones, and liver.

The following diagnostic tests may be ordered:

Blood tests

Blood tests help show if your thyroid is functioning normally. Tests commonly ordered check levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and T3 and T4 hormones. Blood tests are also used to monitor thyroid cancers.

Biopsy

Fine-needle aspiration biopsy (FNAB) is the most effective test for determining if a thyroid mass is cancerous or not. The test has a 97% accuracy rate. This simple outpatient procedure involves a small needle injected into the mass or nodule. The needle removes cells that will be examined in the lab under a microscope.

Imaging Tests

Advanced imaging scans of your neck help your physician see the precise location and extent of the suspected cancer including: Ultrasound scan (does not involve radiation), Computed tomography (CT) scan, Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and Chest x-ray.