Objectives/Hypothesis The outcome in differentiated thyroid cancer generally depends on the stage of the disease at the time of presentation; prognostic factors such as age, grade, size, extension, or distant metastasis; and risk groups (eg, low or high risk). The author has reviewed a large number of patients with differentiated thyroid cancer to analyze their hypothesis and to confirm that various risk groups have a major implication in relation to extent of the treatment and outcome. Differentiated thyroid cancers make up 90% of all thyroid tumors. The prognostic factors are well defined, such as age, size of the tumor, extrathyroidal extension, presence of distant metastasis, histological appearance, and grade of the tumor. The author has previously divided the risk groups into low-, intermediate-, and high-risk categories based on prognostic factors. The study describes the author's treatment approach related to the extent of thyroidectomy and adjuvant therapy based on various risk groups and the long-term survival.
Study Design Retrospective.
Methods In a retrospective review of 1038 patients with differentiated thyroid carcinoma, various prognostic factors were studied by univariate and multivariate analysis. The significant prognostic factors were studied in detail and, based on these prognostic factors, the patients were divided into low-, intermediate- and high-risk groups. The survival curves were plotted by Kaplan-Meier method.
Results The long-term survivals in low-, intermediate- and high-risk groups were 99%, 87%, and 57% respectively. Based on these risk groups, a decision tree was made regarding extent of thyroidectomy and adjuvant treatment. In the high-risk group and selected patients in the intermediate-risk group, aggressive surgery including removal of all gross disease and extrathyroidal extension with postoperative radioactive iodine ablation is recommended. In the low-risk group and selected patients in the intermediate-risk group, lobectomy appears to be satisfactory with excellent long-term outcome. The surgical treatment offers the best long-term results in low-risk patients, and the role of adjuvant treatment in this group is questionable.
Conclusion The decisions in the management of well-differentiated thyroid cancer should be based on various prognostic factors and risk groups. The long-term survival in the low-risk group is excellent, and consideration should be given to conservative surgical resection depending on the extent of the disease. In the high-risk group and selected patients in the intermediate-risk group, total thyroidectomy with radioactive ablation is warranted. A consideration may be given to external-beam radiation therapy in selected high-risk patients. It is apparent, based on the author's clinical experience and critical retrospective analysis, that the author's hypothesis that risk groups are extremely important in the long-term outcome of patients with differentiated thyroid cancer is correct. Based on various risk groups, the author currently is able to guide the treatment policies for thyroid cancer.