EP107 – Incidental cervical metastasis of papillary thyroid cancer without a thyroid lesion – A case series


    Kim, William1; Kung, Jacqueline2; O’Leary, Miriam1
    1 Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, Tufts Medical Center, Boston, MA, USA
    2 Department of Endocrinology, Tufts Medical Center, Boston, MA, USA


    Background: Though occult well-differentiated thyroid carcinoma is not uncommon, incidental finding of a cervical metastasis without a clear primary tumor in the thyroid gland is unusual. Such discovery incites controversy in regards to its significance and management.

    Purpose: To report a case series of incidentally found metastatic papillary thyroid cancer without a primary thyroid origin. To discuss and review the possible management options.

    Methods: A retrospective chart review of two cases at an urban tertiary medical center was performed. Clinical, radiographic, and pathologic data were collected and reviewed. A literature search of occult cervical metastasis of papillary thyroid cancer was performed.

    Results: Two patients were found to have incidental small foci of papillary thyroid cancer in their cervical lymph nodes. One patient had a history of head and neck cancer and subsequent radiation, and the other had a history of non-toxic multinodular goiter with negative fine needle aspiration of thyroid nodules that met criteria. Metastatic papillary thyroid carcinoma was found in level 2 and level 4, respectively. Both had no clear primary thyroid cancer on imaging.

    Discussion/Conclusion: Cervical metastasis of papillary thyroid cancer is treated aggressively as it is considered advanced stage pathology. However, without a defined primary tumor, microcarcinoma is assumed, and the need for aggressive surgery is debatable. Management should differ depending on the patients’ risk factors and prognosis from other medical conditions.


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