Background: Encapsulated papillary thyroid carcinoma (EPTC) can have a histologic growth pattern similar to the one seen in classical papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) or akin to the follicular variant of PTC (FVPTC). This study aims to assess the behavior of EPTC according to its growth pattern.
Methods: All cases of thyroid carcinomas treated at our institution between 1980 and 2000 were reviewed and reclassified according to current histopathologic criteria.
Results: After review by two pathologists, 106 cases were included. Forty-three (41%) of the cases were identified as encapsulated classical PTC (E-CPTC) and 63 (59%) as encapsulated FVPTC (E-FVPTC). E-FVPTC had a higher rate of vascular invasion (16/63; 25%) than E-CPTC (2/43; 5%) (p = 0.007). In contrast, E-CPTC had a higher frequency of capsular invasion (28/43; 65%) than E-FVPTC (24/63, 38%) (p = 0.01). The lymph node metastatic rate was significantly higher in E-CPTC (11/43, 26%) compared to E-FVPTC (2/63, 3%) (p = 0.0014). All 34 noninvasive E-FVPTC lacked evidence of nodal metastases while 4 of 15 (27%) noninvasive E-CPTC presented with nodal disease (p = 0.006). Distant metastasis occurred only in four cases of E-FVPTC at presentation. These four FVPTC had extensive capsular and/or vascular invasion and no nodal disease. None of noninvasive EPTC recurred, including 30 patients treated by lobectomy without radioactive iodine (RAI) therapy (median follow-up: 8.9 years).
Conclusion: E-CPTC resembles classical PTC in its propensity to metastasize to lymph nodes and its vascular/capsular invasive pattern while E-FVPTC behaves more like follicular carcinoma/adenoma group of tumors. Meticulous search for capsular and vascular invasion can reliably predict the metastatic potential of E-FVPTC but not of E-CPTC. The latter can therefore be treated like unencapsulated classical PTC. Noninvasive E-FVPTC could be managed like minimally invasive follicular carcinoma by lobectomy without RAI therapy. Invasive E-FVPTC seem quite indolent if no distant metastases are found at presentation.