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Natural History, Diagnosis, Treatment And Outcome Of Papillary Thyroid Microcarcinoma (PTMC): A Mono-institutional 12-year Experience

M. Pelizzo, I. Boschin, A. Toniato, C. Pagetta, A. Piotto, P. Bernante, D. Casara, G. Pennelli, D. Rubello
Published 2004 · Medicine

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The clinical and histopathological records of 149 consecutive patients with papillary thyroid microcarcinoma (PTMC), homogeneously studied and operated on by the same surgeon in the period 1990 to 2001, were reviewed. After a mean 6.5-year follow-up, three cases of loco-regional recurrence (2%) were observed. These three patients had all undergone partial thyroidectomy only and tumour relapse occurred in the residual thyroid tissue. No recurrence was observed in patients treated by total thyroidectomy and 131I. At variance with other reported series, no lymph node recurrence was observed in our series, in particular in the group of 23 patients with evidence of nodal metastases at initial diagnosis (three of whom were revealed by 131I scan after surgery). Therefore, a preventive effect of 131I treatment in our patient population can be hypothesized. However, prolonged follow-up will be necessary to clarify this. Due to the inability of current imaging modalities to select pre-operatively PTMC patients at risk for recurrence (presence of thyroid capsular invasion, multifocality and microscopic lymph node metastases), it appears reasonable to offer the patient total thyroidectomy when a pre-operative diagnosis of PTMC is reached. Moreover, the policy of our thyroid cancer centre is that, in these patients, post-surgical 131I scan should be obtained in order to detect unknown metastatic deposits, and 131I treatment should also be considered in patients with poor clinical and histopathological prognostic factors. In contrast, in patients operated on for benign thyroid disease and with delayed diagnosis of PTMC at definitive histopathological examination, re-operation might be avoided in the presence of unifocal disease without thyroid capsular invasion and with ultrasound-‘normal’ residual thyroid tissue. Close clinical and ultrasound follow-up is recommended, especially in patients who have undergone conservative surgery only.
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