Clinical outcomes of a conservative approach in cervical lymph node metastases of thyroid cancer

Joana Maciel, Sara Donato, Helder Simões, Valeriano Leite

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Context: Lymph node metastases (LNM) can be present in 35% of patients with differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC), and the management of persistent/recurrent nodal disease has been controversial. Watchful waiting may be a reasonable approach in selected patients, but uncertainty about clinical outcomes remains a concern. Objective: To investigate the outcomes of patients with DTC with recurrent/persistent confirmed LNM under surveillance. Methods: Patients with LNM from DTC were selected from databases of needle washout thyroglobulin measurements and fine-needle aspiration biopsies performed in our institution. Patients with confirmed metastases, in whom active surveillance was initially proposed, were selected. Main clinical outcomes were analysed. Results: We found 89 patients with LNM under surveillance. Classic papillary was the most frequent variant (44%). During a median follow-up of 3 (0.5-17.2) years, different treatments were needed in 35 (39.3%) patients: radioactive iodine (RAI) in 23 (25.8%), surgery in 9 (10.1%) and radiotherapy (RT) in 3 (3.4%). From those submitted initially to RAI, progression of disease was observed in 8 patients, 4 requiring other treatment modalities: surgery (n = 2), RT (n = 1) and RAI (n = 1). The remaining 54 (60.7%) patients maintained surveillance. In this group, progression of disease was observed in 26 (48.1%), due to increase in the number and/or volume of metastases, but further treatments were not required. Conclusion: In a group of patients with cervical LNM under active surveillance, only 16.9% (n = 15) required invasive intervention (surgery or RT).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)460-465
Number of pages6
JournalClinical Endocrinology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


  • active surveillance
  • lymph node metastases
  • thyroid cancer


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