What is papillary carcinoma in patients with thyroid cancer?

Updated: May 14, 2020
  • Author: Pramod K Sharma, MD; Chief Editor: Arlen D Meyers, MD, MBA  more...
  • Print


Papillary carcinoma is the most common thyroid malignancy, representing approximately 80%. Papillary carcinoma and follicular carcinoma make up the well-differentiated thyroid carcinomas. Women develop papillary cancer 3 times more frequently than men do, and the mean age at presentation is 34-40 years.

Cases can occur familially, either alone or in association with Gardner syndrome (familial adenomatous polyposis). As noted above, radiation exposure, especially during childhood, is associated with the development of papillary thyroid carcinoma. Tumors typically appear after a latency period of about 10-20 years. In addition, an increased incidence of papillary cancer is hypothesized among patients with Hashimoto thyroiditis (chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis). Despite this possibility, the rate of malignancy for a given nodule in people with Hashimoto thyroiditis is similar to that of individuals with a normal gland.

Papillary carcinoma is a slow-growing tumor that arises from the thyroxine (T4)- and thyroglobulin-producing follicular cells of the thyroid. The cells are TSH sensitive and take up iodine. They produce thyroglobulin in response to TSH stimulation. This feature has both diagnostic and therapeutic value for managing residual disease and recurrences after surgical excision (see Treatment and Prognosis below).

Did this answer your question?
Additional feedback? (Optional)
Thank you for your feedback!