• Slider-Image-thyroid-cancer
    Thyroid Carcinoma
    Read the story of ASCP Patient Champion Erin and learn about the role
    of laboratory testing in the diagnosis and treatment of thyroid carcinoma.

What is Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma?

Papillary thyroid carcinoma is the most common form of thyroid cancer. While the genetic mutation that causes it can be inherited, commonly, this cancer is seen after exposure to radiation.



Educational Materials: Thyroid Cancer


A pathology slide of Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma showing dark blue, crowded cells creating tufts or fronds into clear spaces is typical of this tumor.

ERIN's Story

When she was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer at 22, Erin had her thyroid and two lymph nodes removed. Eight years later, while pregnant with her son Luke, the cancer returned.

Erin was first diagnosed with papillary thyroid carcinoma when she was a senior in college. A nodule found in a routine gynecologist’s appointment prompted her doctor to order an ultrasound and a fine needle biopsy. When cancer was diagnosed by a pathologist, Erin had surgery to remove her thyroid and two cancerous lymph nodes. Following her college graduation, she received radioactive iodine treatment and was given a clean bill of health.

When Erin was pregnant with her son eight years later, her hormone levels were monitored at a high-risk clinic. An ultrasound revealed three suspicious lymph nodes; subsequent on-site analysis by a pathologist revealed recurrent papillary thyroid carcinoma. While Erin had surgery to remove two cancerous lymph nodes, her carcinoma tested positive for a BRAF mutation, which means the cancer would be less responsive to the radioactive iodine treatment and more likely to recur in the future. Erin’s doctors continue to monitor her cancer growth every six months through a combination of blood tests and scans.

Erin’s husband, Cody, is a pathologist and has deepened her understanding of the nature of her cancer and the diagnostic role the pathologist and laboratory team play in care and treatment planning. She has a great appreciation for the many doctors and clinicians that work behind the scenes on her behalf.

Erin has worked in the commercial furniture and design industry since graduating college and now stays home with her son, Luke. She enjoys designing, crafting, watching movies and spending time with her husband and son.

A New Mom with Cancer.

Questions To Ask Your Doctor

  • Are there any blood tests that can help diagnose thyroid cancer?
  • Would testing for thyroid - stimulating hormone (TSH), thyroid hormones (T3 and T4), or thyroglobulin be useful in working up thyroid cancer?
  • Are there other markers besides thyroid-specific markers that could help diagnose cancer?
  • What is calcitonin and Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA)? Could testing for these analytes be useful?
  • After surgery to remove thyroid, will I need to be followed with any of these thyroid markers? If so, how often?
  • What is the difference between a fine needle aspiration (FNA) and a biopsy?