Anaplastic thyroid cancer biopsy

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Ammu Susheela, M.D. [2]


On biopsy, anaplastic thyroid cancer is characterized by trabecular or solid follicular tumor cells that invade the tumor capsule and surrounding vascular structures.

Key Biopsy Findings in Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer

During a biopsy, cells are removed from the body so they can be tested in a laboratory. The pathology report from the laboratory will confirm whether or not cancer cells are present in the sample. A biopsy is the only definitive way to diagnose thyroid cancer. The biopsies that could be used for thyroid cancer are:

Fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy

If the nodule isn't big enough to be felt, ultrasound may be used to guide the needle into the nodule. A number of samples may be taken from different areas of the nodule to ensure that the entire nodule has been examined. If the person has more than one nodule, samples may be taken from each one, depending on the size and appearance of the nodules.

Surgical biopsy

  • Surgical biopsy may be done if:
  • An FNA could not be done
  • It was difficult for the pathologist to make a definite diagnosis from the FNA sample
  • There were multiple nodules in the thyroid gland and it was too difficult to obtain FNA samples from each of them
  • The entire thyroid nodule and possibly the affected lobe of the thyroid should be removed

Biopsy Exams of Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer

Anaplastic thyroid carcinoma with a component of papillary thyroid cancer.[1]


  1. Image courtesy of Wikipedia. Wikipaedia (original file ‘’here’’.Creative Commons BY-SA-NC