Background: Current recommendations for persistent or recurrent locoregional papillary thyroid cancer (PTC) include consideration of surgical resection versus active surveillance. The purpose of this study is to determine long-term outcomes after surgical resection of recurrent or persistent metastatic PTC in cervical lymph nodes after failure of initial surgery and radioactive iodine therapy using newer validated clinical outcomes measures.
Methods: Outcomes of 70 patients who underwent cervical lymphadenectomy (n = 110) from 1999 to 2013 for recurrent or persistent locoregional PTC metastases were reviewed. Measures included biochemical remission (BCR) based on Tg levels, American Thyroid Association classifications for response to treatment [biochemical incomplete response (BIR), structural incomplete response (SIR), indeterminate response (IR), and excellent response (ER)], need for reoperation, surgical complications, disease progression, and death.
Results: The median follow-up was 13.1 years, with only two additional reoperations since 2010, one of which had no metastasis on pathology with the other developing anaplastic thyroid cancer in background PTC. ER was achieved in 31 (44%) patients, all of whom remained in ER at time of last follow-up (median 14.1 years). There were no structural recurrences in patients with persistent BIR or IR after reoperation. Patients with SIR had stable disease, except for one who died due to anaplastic thyroid cancer.
Conclusions: Patients who achieved ER after reoperation had no need for further treatment. Patients with persistent detectable Tg levels after reoperation rarely developed structural recurrence. ATA outcomes can be safely used to guide treatment decisions over a decade after reoperation for PTC.