The important role of operations in the management of anaplastic thyroid carcinoma

Surgery. 2002 Mar;131(3):245-8. doi: 10.1067/msy.2002.119936.


Background: Anaplastic thyroid carcinoma is a rare and highly lethal neoplasm. We investigated whether operations have an impact on the survival of patients who have anaplastic carcinoma without distant metastasis.

Methods: Between 1989 and 1999, 40 consecutive patients with anaplastic carcinoma, without distant metastasis at the time of presentation or during local treatment, were reviewed. The cumulative survival rates and 1-year survival rates were compared.

Results: Eleven patients had a small focus of anaplastic carcinoma in a differentiated carcinoma, and 29 patients had ordinary anaplastic thyroid carcinoma. Surgical debulking was performed in 26 patients. Radiotherapy was used for 31 patients and chemotherapy for 19 patients. The 1-year survival rates of the patients with incidental anaplastic carcinoma, ordinary anaplastic carcinoma who underwent operations, and ordinary anaplastic carcinoma who did not undergo operations were 73%, 60%, and 21%, respectively. A significantly higher cumulative survival rate was observed in patients with incidental anaplastic carcinoma than in those with ordinary anaplastic carcinoma. A significantly better outcome was obtained by surgical debulking of ordinary anaplastic carcinoma.

Conclusions: Patients with incidental anaplastic carcinoma tended to have a good outcome, but some had a poor prognosis. Surgical debulking improved the outcome of patients with ordinary anaplastic carcinoma.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma / drug therapy
  • Carcinoma / radiotherapy
  • Carcinoma / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Survival Analysis
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / surgery*