Lobectomy Sufficient for Small Papillary Thyroid Cancers

A lobectomy - partial removal of the thyroid gland - appears to be as effective as a total thyroidectomy -- in treating cancerous nodules under 4 mm. clipart.com

Typically, when thyroid cancer is detected, most practitioners recommend removal of the full thyroid gland in a surgery known as a thyroidectomy.

But research findings presented in 2014 found that when cancerous nodules were less than 4.0 cm in size, total thyroidectomy did not improve the survival rate or offer any advantage of versus lobectomy -- a partial thyroidectomy in which only a lobe/half of the thyroid gland is removed.

At the American Surgical Association annual meeting, study author Dr. Mohamed Abdelgadir Adam said: "Despite guidelines, our results call into question whether tumor size 1-4 cm should be an absolute determinant for extent of surgery. Using total thyroidectomy based on tumor size alone may unnecessarily subject patients to increased risks of complications without a survival benefit."

The issue of how much of the gland to remove for papillary thyroid cancer is still a point of controversy, however. Varying studies have shown no difference in survival for thyroidectomy compared to lobectomy, while others claim improved survival for total thyroidectomy when tumors exceed 1 cm in size.

It's likely, however, that new guidelines coming out this year from the endocrinology community will reflect the growing understanding that a full thyroidectomy may not be needed for papillary thyroid cancers under 4 cm.

About Thyroid Cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 62,980 new cases of thyroid cancer will be diagnosed in 2014 -- 47,790 in women, and 15,190 in men. In 2014, an estimated 1,890 deaths from thyroid cancer will take place -- 1,060 women and 830 men.

The rate of diagnosis of thyroid cancer is on the rise in the U.S., and experts believe that this is mainly due to better detection of small thyoid nodules via ultrasound.

While more patients are being diagnosed, the death rate from thyroid cancer has been stable for decades, and is very low compared to other cancers.f

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