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High Prevalence Of Occult Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma In A Surgical Series For Benign Thyroid Disease

M. Pelizzo, A. Piotto, D. Rubello, D. Casara, A. Fassina, B. Busnardo
Published 1990 · Medicine

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In a surgical series of 277 consecutive patients operated on the thyroid for benign diseases, a high prevalence rate (10.5%) of occult papillary carcinoma was found by means of an accurate histologic examination. Indications for surgery were euthyroid multinodular goiter in 25 patients, autonomously hyperfunctioning adenoma in 2 and Graves’ disease in 2 patients. Neoplastic foci were unilaterally found in 25 cases but multifocally in 6 and bilaterally in 4 cases: the diameters ranged from 2-10 mm. After operation (14 subtotal and 15 total thyroidectomies), all patients received TSH-suppressive doses of T4. At a mean follow-up of 5.6 years, neither local recurrences nor lymph node or distant metastases had occurred; no patient died of the tumor. In keeping with other surgical and autopsy series, the prevalence of occult thyroid carcinoma in a normal population is calculated to be about 5-10%, whereas it is known that the prevalence of clinically evident thyroid cancer is only 0.05%. This means that only 1-2% of occult carcinomas may evolve in an overt tumor during life. In view of such an epidemiologic difference and the favorable course of our patients, although the mean follow-up is rather short, we suggest that lobectomy plus T4 treatment may be considered an adequate therapeutic approach in patients with occult papillary thyroid carcinoma.
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