Are there disparities in the presentation, treatment and outcomes of patients diagnosed with medullary thyroid cancer?-An analysis of 634 patients from the California Cancer Registry

Gland Surg. 2016 Aug;5(4):398-404. doi: 10.21037/gs.2016.04.02.


Background: Race, gender and socioeconomic disparities have been suggested to adversely influence stage at presentation, treatment options and outcomes in patients with cancer. Underserved minorities and those with a low socioeconomic status (SES) present with more advanced disease and have worse outcomes for differentiated thyroid cancer, but this relationship has never been evaluated for medullary thyroid cancer (MTC).

Methods: We used the California Cancer Registry (CCR) to evaluate disparities in the presentation, treatment and outcomes of patients diagnosed with MTC.

Results: We identified 634 patients with MTC diagnosed between 1988 and 2011. Almost everyone (85%) underwent thyroidectomy with 50% having a central lymph node dissection (CLND). There were no statistically significant differences by age, race or SES in mean tumor size or the proportion of patients diagnosed with localized disease, but men were diagnosed with larger tumors than women and were less likely to be diagnosed at a localized stage. Younger patients and women were more likely to be treated with a thyroidectomy. There were no statistically significant differences in surgical treatment by race or SES. Patients in the highest SES category had a better overall survival, but not disease specific survival, than those in the lowest SES (HR =0.3, CI =0.1-0.7). Patients treated with thyroidectomy had a better overall and cause specific survival, but the effect of CLND was not statistically significant after adjustment for other factors.

Conclusions: In MTC, we did not find that race, gender or SES influenced the presentation, treatment or outcomes of patients with MTC. Men with MTC present with larger tumors and are less likely to have localized disease. Half of the MTC patients in California do not undergo a CLND at the time of thyroidectomy, which may suggest a lack appropriate care across a range of healthcare systems.

Keywords: California Cancer Registry (CCR); Medullary thyroid cancer (MTC); central lymph node dissection (CLND); socioeconomic disparities.