Background: The 2015 American Thyroid Association thyroid cancer management guidelines endorse an active surveillance management approach as an alternative to immediate biopsy and surgery in subcentimeter thyroid nodules with highly suspicious ultrasonographic characteristics and in cytologically confirmed very low risk papillary thyroid cancer (PTC). However, the guidelines provide no specific recommendations with regard to the optimal selection of patients for an active surveillance management approach. This article describes a risk-stratified clinical decision-making framework that was developed by the thyroid cancer disease management team at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center as the lessons learned from Kuma Hospital in Japan were applied to a cohort of patients with probable or proven papillary microcarcinoma (PMC) who were being evaluated for an active surveillance management approach in the United States.
Summary: A risk-stratified approach to the evaluation of patients with probable or proven PMC being considered for an active surveillance management approach requires an evaluation of three interrelated but distinct domains: (i) tumor/neck ultrasound characteristics (e.g., size of the primary tumor, the location of the tumor within the thyroid gland); (ii) patient characteristics (e.g., age, comorbidities, willingness to accept observation); and (iii) medical team characteristics (e.g., availability and experience of the multidisciplinary team). Based on an analysis of the critical factors within each of these domains, patients with probable or proven PTC can then be classified as ideal, appropriate, or inappropriate candidates for active surveillance.
Conclusion: Risk stratification utilizing the proposed decision-making framework will improve the ability of clinicians to recognize individual patients with proven or probable PMC who are most likely to benefit from an active surveillance management option while at the same time identifying patients with proven or probable PMC that would be better served with an upfront biopsy and surgical management approach.