Condition 101 About Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer

What is the definition of Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer?

Anaplastic thyroid carcinoma is a rare and aggressive form of cancer of the thyroid gland.

What are the alternative names for Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer?

Anaplastic carcinoma of the thyroid

What are the causes for Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer?

Anaplastic thyroid cancer is an invasive type of thyroid cancer that grows very rapidly. It occurs most often in people over age 60. It is more common in females than in males. The cause is unknown.

Anaplastic cancer accounts for only about less than 1% of all thyroid cancers in the United States.

What are the symptoms for Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer?

Symptoms include:

  • Cough
  • Coughing up blood
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Hoarseness or changing voice
  • Loud breathing
  • Lower neck lump, which often grows quickly
  • Pain
  • Vocal cord paralysis
  • Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism)

What are the current treatments for Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer?

This type of cancer cannot be cured by surgery. Complete removal of the thyroid gland does not prolong the lives of people who have this type of cancer.

Surgery combined with radiation therapy and chemotherapy may have a significant benefit.

Surgery to place a tube in the throat to help with breathing (tracheostomy) or in the stomach to help with eating (gastrostomy) may be needed during treatment.

For some people, enrolling in a clinical trial of new thyroid cancer treatments based on the genetic changes in the tumor may be an option.

What are the support groups for Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer?

You can often ease the stress of illness by joining a support group of people sharing common experiences and problems.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer?

The outlook with this disease is poor. Most people do not survive longer than 6 months because the disease is aggressive and there is a lack of effective treatment options.

What are the possible complications for Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer?

Complications may include:

  • Spread of tumor within the neck
  • Metastasis (spread) of cancer to other body tissues or organs

When should I contact a medical professional for Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer?

Call your health care provider if you notice:

  • A persistent lump or mass in the neck
  • Hoarseness or changes in your voice
  • Cough or coughing up blood


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National Cancer Institute, Center for Cancer Research website. Anaplastic thyroid cancer. Updated February 27, 2019. Accessed February 1, 2020.

Smallridge RC, Ain KB, Asa SL, et al. American Thyroid Association guidelines for management of patients with anaplastic thyroid cancer. Thyroid. 2012;22(11):1104-1139. PMID: 23130564

Smith PW, Hanks LR, Salomone LJ, Hanks JB. Thyroid. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2017:chap 36.

Latest Advances On Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer

  • Condition: Advanced Thyroid Cancer
  • Journal: Current treatment options in oncology
  • Treatment Used: Molecular-Driven Therapy
  • Number of Patients: NULL
  • Published —
The study researched the outcomes of molecular-driven therapy in patients with advanced thyroid cancer.
  • Condition: Locally Invasive Thyroid Carcinoma (TC)
  • Journal: Medicine
  • Treatment Used: Free Myocutaneous Flap (FMF) vs. Pedicled Myocutaneous Flap (PMF) Reconstruction
  • Number of Patients: 38
  • Published —
This study presented the outcome and complications after trachea reconstruction by free myocutaneous flap (FMF) and pedicled myocutaneous flap (PMF) in patients with locally invasive thyroid carcinoma (TC).

Clinical Trials For Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer

Clinical Trial
  • Status: Not yet recruiting
  • Phase: Phase 2
  • Intervention Type: Drug, Biological
  • Participants: 25
  • Start Date: March 2, 2021
Lenvatinib in Combination With Pembrolizumab for Stage IVB Locally Advanced and Unresectable or Stage IVC Metastatic Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer