Low-risk papillary cancers, which represent the vast majority of thyroid cancers diagnosed today, do not require aggressive treatment or follow-up. Initial treatment consists of a total thyroidectomy without prophylactic lymph node dissection. A hemithyroidectomy is an alternative in some patients with an intrathyroidal tumor and with a normal contralateral lobe at pre-operative neck ultrasonography. The use of post-operative radioiodine should be restricted to selected patients. Follow-up at 6-18 months is based on serum thyroglobulin (Tg), Tg-antibody determination and neck ultrasonography. In the absence of any abnormality (excellent response to treatment), the risk of recurrence is extremely low and follow-up may consist of serum TSH monitoring that is maintained in the normal range, and a Tg and Tg-antibody titer determination every year. There is no need for referral to a specialized center. In patients with detectable serum Tg or detectable Tg antibodies, the trend over time of these markers on levothyroxine treatment will dictate subsequent follow-up: a decreasing trend is reassuring, but an increasing trend should lead to imaging, starting with neck ultrasonography.
Keywords: hemithyroidectomy; low-risk thyroid cancer; neck ultrasonography; radioactive iodine; thyroglobulin; total thyroidectomy.