Management of thyroid cancer of follicular cell origin: Gundersen/Lutheran Medical Center, 1969–1995


Most reports regarding the treatment of thyroid cancer originate from university referral centers. In this article, we report our experience in managing thyroid cancer of follicular cell origin at a nonuniversity institution over a 26-year period.

Study Design:

We reviewed the medical records of all patients treated for thyroid cancer at the Gundersen/Lutheran Medical Center from 1969 to 1995. Histologic types, demographic and clinical characteristics, laboratory results, treatment, complications, and followup observations were tabulated. Risk was assigned according to the age, presence of distant metastasis, extent of the primary tumor, and site of the primary tumor (AMES) staging system.


The histologic classification was as follows: papillary, 139; follicular, 24; Hürthle cell, 14; and anaplastic, 11. Low-risk lesions were identified in 96%, 79%, and 71% of the patients with papillary, follicular, and Hürthle cell (collectively designated differentiated) carcinoma, respectively. We treated 60% of our patients with differentiated thyroid cancer with near-total or total thyroidectomy. Clinically involved cervical lymph nodes were removed singly or by modified neck dissection. We frequently ablated thyroid remnants after operation

with 29.9 mCi (1,110 MBq) of 131I, after which we treated the patient with suppressive doses of levothyroxine. Patients were evaluated yearly with thyroglobulin measurements and, in some high-risk patients, with total-body 131I scans. Cancer recurred in 13%, 8%, and 7% of our patients with papillary, follicular, and Hürthle cell carcinoma, respectively. Only three patients died of differentiated thyroid cancer; eight are alive with malignancy. In anaplastic thyroid cancer, cervical lymph node metastases, local invasion, and distant metastases were present in 18%, 64%, and 45% of patients at the time of initial evaluation. Total or near-total thyroidectomy was possible in only four of nine patients treated surgically. External radiation (11 patients) and chemotherapy (two patients) were used. Additional metastases developed in 45% of the patients, and nine patients died within a year. Permanent hypoparathyroidism or hoarseness complicated 2.7% of the thyroid operations.


Although our followup was relatively short, the results of treating thyroid cancer by general surgeons at a nonuniversity hospital compare favorably with results obtained from university referral centers.

Category: Cancer-2

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