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Open access

Alexa Clark, Marosh Manduch, Russell Hollins and Sara Awad

Summary

We report a case of metastatic papillary thyroid carcinoma presenting with a recurrent right-sided cervical lymph node necrotic cyst. A 55-year-old woman presented with a 3-month history of a right-sided upper neck mass following an upper respiratory tract infection. Past medical history includes a right-sided nephrectomy secondary to a benign renal tumor and hypertension. She was evaluated by Otolaryngology, and fine-needle aspiration was performed. The mass recurred 2 months following aspiration. Ultrasound of the neck showed a 2.2 × 1.4 × 1.9 cm right cervical lymph node with a small fatty hilum but a thickened cortex. Neck computed tomography (CT) scan showed a well-defined 2.3 cm mass in the right upper neck corresponding to a necrotic cervical lymph node at level IIA. It also revealed a 7 mm calcified left thyroid nodule. Cytology revealed a moderate collection of murky fluid with mildly atypical cells presumed to be reactive given the clinical history of infection. The cyst had re-grown 2 months following aspiration. Excisional biopsy was performed and revealed metastatic classic papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC). Subsequently, a total thyroidectomy and right neck dissection was performed. Pathology confirmed metastatic unifocal classic PTC of the right thyroid lobe and two lymph node metastases out of a total of 17 resected lymph nodes. The patient underwent radioactive iodine ablation. Subsequent I-131 radioiodine whole-body scan showed no evidence of metastases. In conclusion, metastatic PTC should be considered in the differential diagnosis of a recurrent solitary cystic cervical lymph node.

Learning points:

  • Metastatic PTC should be considered in the differential diagnosis of a recurrent solitary cystic cervical lymph node.

  • A dedicated thyroid ultrasound is the preferred modality for identifying thyroid lesion over computed tomography.

  • There is a risk of non-diagnostic cytology following FNA for cystic neck lesions, largely predicted by the cyst content of the nodule.

Open access

Jill Pancer, Elliot Mitmaker, Oluyomi Ajise, Roger Tabah and Jacques How

Summary

Multifocal papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) is common and the number of tumor foci rarely exceeds ten. The mechanism of multifocal disease is debated, with the two main hypotheses consisting of either intrathyroidal metastatic spread from a single tumor or independent multicentric tumorigenesis from distinct progenitor cells. We report the case of a 46-year-old woman who underwent total thyroidectomy and left central neck lymph node dissection after fine-needle aspiration of bilateral thyroid nodules that yielded cytological findings consistent with PTC. Final pathology of the surgical specimen showed an isthmic dominant 1.5 cm classical PTC and over 30 foci of microcarcinoma, which displayed decreasing density with increasing distance from the central lesion. Furthermore, all malignant tumors and lymph nodes harbored the activating BRAF V600E mutation. The present case highlights various pathological features that support a mechanism of intraglandular spread, namely a strategic isthmic location of the primary tumor, radial pattern of distribution and extensive number of small malignant foci and BRAF mutational homogeneity.

Learning points:

  • Multifocal papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) is commonly seen in clinical practice, but the number of malignant foci is usually limited to ten or less.

  • There is no clear consensus in the literature as to whether multifocal PTC arises from a single or multiple distinct tumor progenitor cells.

  • Strategic location of the dominant tumor in the thyroid isthmus may favor intraglandular dissemination of malignant cells by means of the extensive lymphatic network.

  • An important pathological finding that may be suggestive of intrathyroidal metastatic spread is a central pattern of distribution with a reduction in the density of satellite lesions with increasing distance from the dominant focus.

  • PTCs originating from the isthmus with intraglandular metastatic dissemination behave more aggressively. As such, a more aggressive treatment course may be warranted, particularly with regard to the extent of surgery.