Metastasis to the Thyroid Gland: A Critical Review

Ann Surg Oncol. 2017 Jun;24(6):1533-1539. doi: 10.1245/s10434-016-5683-4. Epub 2016 Nov 21.


Background: Metastasis to the thyroid gland from nonthyroid sites is an uncommon clinical presentation in surgical practice. The aim of this review was to assess its incidence management and outcomes.

Methods: A literature review was performed to identify reports of metastases to the thyroid gland. Both clinical and autopsy series were included.

Results: Metastases to the gland may be discovered at the time of diagnosis of the primary tumor, after preoperative investigation of a neck mass, or on histologic examination of a thyroidectomy specimen. The most common primary tumors in autopsy studies are from the lung. In clinical series, renal cell carcinoma is most common. For patients with widespread metastases in the setting of an aggressive malignancy, surgery is rarely indicated. However, when patients present with an isolated metastasis diagnosed during follow-up of indolent disease, surgery may achieve control of the central neck and even long-term cure. Other prognosticators include features of the primary tumor, time interval between initial diagnosis and metastasis, and extrathyroid extent of disease.

Conclusions: In patients with thyroid metastases, communication among clinicians treating the thyroid and the index primary tumor is essential. The setting is complex, and decisions must be made considering the features of the primary tumor, overall burden of metastases, and comorbidities. Careful balancing of these factors influences individualized approaches.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / secondary*