Surgical Options for Thyroid Cancer and Post-Surgical Management

Expert Rev Endocrinol Metab. 2018 May;13(3):137-148. doi: 10.1080/17446651.2018.1464910. Epub 2018 Apr 20.


Introduction: Differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC), which includes papillary and follicular, is the most common type of thyroid cancer and the incidence is rising. Survival rates of DTC are excellent, so the focus of management should be to optimize the initial oncological surgical resection, while providing follow up and adjunct therapies to improve long-term outcomes.

Areas covered: It is important for providers to be aware of the most recent guidelines for DTC management, as practices have changed in recent years. In this review, we will highlight some of the updates in the American Thyroid Association (ATA) guidelines and the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) edition changes in order to better guide practitioners in the management of the evolving treatment strategies. Management of DTC includes diagnosis of thyroid nodules, defining the best operative or non-operative treatment for patients using a multidisciplinary approach, and surveillance of DTC to optimize patients in terms of both clinical and quality of life outcomes.

Expert commentary: As the rate of DTC rises yet the mortality remains stable, management focuses on disease-free follow up and optimal long-term outcomes. Current controversies in management of DTC include proper oncological surgery depending on the nature and size of the DTC, the cytopathology nomenclature, management of lymph node disease, and appropriate surveillance strategies. Preoperative risk stratification is key. We have many modalities to aid in that stratification, such as identifying known concerning features of nodules with expert-performed ultrasound, thyroglobulin (Tg) levels, molecular testing, and evidence based outcomes data for recurrence rates. However, many individual cases still present with multiple management options, thus highlighting the importance of patient discussion and a multidisciplinary approach. It is important for providers to recognize that the short and long-term follow up must be guided by surveillance studies, and patients need to be re-risk stratified in order to optimize detection of recurrence yet sustain quality of life.

Keywords: Differentiated thyroid cancer; active surveillance; fine needle aspiration; lymph node dissection; radioactive iodine; thyroglobulin; thyroid lobectomy; thyroid nodule; thyroid stimulating hormone; total thyroidectomy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local
  • Postoperative Care*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / complications
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Thyroidectomy