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Incidental cancer in patients surgically treated for benign thyroid disease. Our experience at a single institution

Clinical practice, 21 - 26
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Increased incidence of incidental cancer in patients operated for benign thyroid disease has been reported. We report our experience about incidental thyroid cancer (ITC) in order to better characterize this nosologic entity.
Between 2001 and 2009 a total of 568 patients underwent surgery for benign thyroid disease. Patients with preoperative cytology undetermined or positive for malignancy were excluded. The most frequent indication for surgery was multinodular or diffuse nontoxic goiter. We performed total thyroidectomy in 499 cases and emithyroidectomy in 69 cases. Final histology revealed ITC in 53 patients (9.3%): 44 had papillary carcinoma (20 classic variant and 24 follicular variant), 4 follicular carcinoma, 4 medullary carcinoma and 1 primitive thyroid paraganglioma. The preoperative diagnosis was multinodular or diffuse goiter in 45 cases of ITC and uninodular goiter in 8 cases. We performed total thyroidectomy in 46 case, emithyroidectomy in 4 patients with past history of lobectomy, emithyroidectomy in 3 patients with following radicalization and central neck dissection. In 14 patients the tumor was multifocal and in 12 of these patients the tumor foci were bilateral. The lesion was a microcarcinoma in 34 cases. Mean diameter of the ITC was 1.14 cm.
We retrospectively reconsidered the results of preoperative ultrasound examinations in relation to the exact position of the tumor in the specimens and we found a statistically significant association between echogenicity and papillary histotype. Twenty-six patients were followed up at our Hospital. The mean follow-up period was 38.2 months. A relapse was observed in 3/26 patients.
Incidental thyroid cancer in patients operated for benign disease has its own surgical and oncological relevance. A correct preoperative assessment, with a careful selection of nodules for fine-needle aspiration cytology on the basis of ultrasound pattern, could better address the choice of surgical procedure. The non irrelevant incidence of incidental thyroid cancer, the eventuality of multifocality and bilaterality and the possible occurrence of relapse, support that total thyroidectomy without residuum is a valuable option for treating benign thyroid conditions such as multinodular goitre. When an incidental cancer is diagnosed after emithyroidectomy, a radicalization with central neck dissection could be considered. We suggest that natural history of papillary microtumors and the correct surgical approach for these lesions could be better defined with a more extensive use of “Porto proposal” criteria.

Vol. XL (No. 2) 2019 March - April

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