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Mauro Boronat, Juan J Cabrera, Carmen Perera, Concepción Isla and Francisco J Nóvoa

Summary

A man underwent total thyroidectomy for goiter when he was 62 years old. The pathology report informed on a 5.5 cm oncocytic follicular adenoma and a 3.5 mm papillary microcarcinoma. Due to the papillary tumor, he was treated with ablative radioiodine therapy and suppressive doses of levothyroxine. After uneventful follow-up for 9 years, increased levels of serum thyroglobulin were detected. Further imaging studies including a whole body scan (WBS) after an empirical dose of 200 mCi 131I were negative. Two years later, a 99mTc SestaMIBI WBS and a 2-[18F]-fluoro-2-deoxy-d-glucose positron-emission tomography showed a well-delimited focal uptake in the right femur. A bone biopsy of the lesion demonstrated metastasis of follicular thyroid carcinoma. Retrospective histological reexamination of available material from the primary oncocytic thyroid tumor failed to reveal definitive traits of malignancy.

Learning points

  • Oncocytic follicular thyroid tumors are a relatively uncommon variant of follicular thyroid neoplasms mostly composed of distinctive large oxyphilic cells (Hürthle cells).

  • Criteria for the distinction between benign and malignant oncocytic neoplasms are not different from those used in the diagnosis of ordinary follicular tumors.

  • Some cases of apparently benign oncocytic neoplasms have been found to develop malignant behavior.

  • Search to rule out vascular and capsular invasion should be particularly exhaustive in histological assessment of oncocytic thyroid tumors.

  • Even so, long-term surveillance remains appropriate for patients with large apparently benign oncocytic tumors.