Changing management in patients with papillary thyroid cancer

Dina M Elaraj, Orlo H. Clark*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The incidence of thyroid cancer has been increasing over the past 30 years, and it is now the seventh most common cancer in women. Papillary thyroid cancer is the most common subtype of thyroid cancer, occurring in 80% of cases. Its main pattern of spread is to cervical lymph nodes, with distant metastases occurring uncommonly. Initial treatment of papillary thyroid cancer involves resection of the primary tumor, with resection of regional lymph nodes if involved with metastatic disease. Postoperative adjuvant therapy consists of radioactive iodine ablation for most patients, followed by thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) suppression with thyroxine. An ongoing controversy in the surgical treatment of papillary thyroid cancer is that of extent of thyroid gland and nodal resection. Consensus guidelines recommend total or near-total thyroidectomy, rather than thyroid lobectomy, as the initial procedure of choice, given its advantages of treating potential multicentric disease, facilitating maximal uptake of adjuvant radioactive iodine, and facilitating the post-treatment follow-up by monitoring serum thyroglobulin (Tg) levels. In the hands of an experienced endocrine surgeon, complication rates are comparable to those for lobectomy. Major changes in the management of patients with papillary thyroid cancer over the last 10 years include the use of preoperative neck ultrasound, which can detect nonpalpable cervical lymph node metastases and potentially change the initial operation. In addition, neck ultrasound and measurement of serum Tg levels have taken the place of routine whole body radioactive iodine scans in the postoperative follow-up of patients with papillary thyroid cancer. Recurrent locoregional cervical lymph node disease should be treated by compartmental lymph node dissection, followed by another treatment dose of radioactive iodine. Chemotherapy is generally ineffective for the treatment of metastatic disease. For those patients whose tumor has become radioactive iodine resistant, emerging therapies include redifferentiation agents, antiangiogenic agents, and multi-tyrosine kinase inhibitors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)305-313
Number of pages9
JournalCurrent treatment options in oncology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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