When it comes to thyroid cancer, the prognosis for men and women is not equal. According to a recent study, women are more likely than men to receive a diagnosis of small papillary thyroid cancer, while diagnoses of aggressive and often fatal types of thyroid cancer are almost equal in both sexes. Most patients with thyroid cancer have the cancer contained in the thyroid at the time of diagnosis. However, around 30% will have metastatic cancer, and 1 to 4% will have spread the cancer outside the neck to other organs, such as the lungs and bones.
In these cases, death is more likely, although it is still rare. A study examining patients with metastatic cancer outside the neck found that the median survival time for fatal differentiated carcinoma was approximately 9 years from initial treatment to death. Depending on the type and severity of the cancer, doctors may recommend delaying treatment until after giving birth to a baby. The most common side effect of surgery to remove part or all of the thyroid gland (thyroidectomy) is the need for lifelong thyroid hormone replacement therapy, which may have its own side effects.
Unfortunately, doctors are still unsure what causes the gene changes that lead to most thyroid cancers, so there is no way to prevent it in people who have an average risk of developing the disease. However, if these cancers are detected by chance, any intervention can be an overtreatment - a therapy for a cancer that would have remained the same or even reduced and would never have caused any symptoms. Other treatments for thyroid cancer may include alcohol ablation, radioactive iodine, targeted drug therapy, external radiation therapy, and chemotherapy in some cases. In addition, 54 cases with histological evidence of anaplastic transformation of differentiated thyroid carcinoma (50 papillary and 4 follicular carcinomas) were included in the study.
Overall, nearly 70 out of 100 men (nearly 70%) will survive cancer for 5 years or more after being diagnosed. However, death is still possible in some cases - mainly in patients who have spread cancer outside the neck to other organs. More research is needed to better understand if thyroid cancer is really a different disease in women and men.