Active surveillance of low-risk papillary thyroid microcarcinoma

Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2023 Jan;37(1):101630. doi: 10.1016/j.beem.2022.101630. Epub 2022 Feb 24.


Recently, the incidence of thyroid carcinoma has been increasing rapidly worldwide. This is interpreted as an increase in the incidental detection of small papillary thyroid carcinomas by the widespread use of high-resolution imaging techniques such as ultrasonography. However, the mortality rates of thyroid carcinoma have not changed, suggesting that small papillary thyroid carcinomas may be overdiagnosed and overtreated. Active surveillance management has been introduced from Japan since the 1990s, as one of the measures to prevent overtreatment of low-risk papillary thyroid microcarcinoma. Based on the favorable outcomes, active surveillance has been gradually adopted worldwide as an alternative to immediate surgery. The management should be carried out with strict eligibility criteria and close monitoring for cancer progression, under a multidisciplinary team. In addition, an adequate shared decision-making is mandatory for individual patients. Papillary thyroid microcarcinomas with clinically apparent lymph node metastasis, distant metastasis, or invasion to adjacent organs should have surgery.

Keywords: active surveillance; conversion surgery; overdiagnosis and overtreatment; papillary thyroid microcarcinoma; ultrasonography.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Thyroid Cancer, Papillary / surgery
  • Thyroid Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Thyroidectomy* / methods
  • Watchful Waiting / methods

Supplementary concepts

  • Papillary Thyroid Microcarcinoma