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Stephanie Patrick Division of Endocrinology, Department of Medicine, The University of Tennessee, Memphis, Tennessee, USA

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Deirdre James Division of Endocrinology, Department of Medicine, The University of Tennessee, Memphis, Tennessee, USA

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Summary

Thyroid cancer is one of the most common manifestations of Cowden syndrome, yet the syndrome is rare. The incidence of Cowden syndrome is 1 in 200,000. The diagnosis can be made clinically when patients present with a combination of symptoms such as mucocutaneous lesions with a strong personal or family history of thyroid, breast, endometrial, and colorectal cancer. A high index of suspicion is required to provide a clinical diagnosis utilizing major and minor criteria. Once a clinical diagnosis is made, genetic testing for a PTEN mutation, a tumor suppressor gene, is recommended. Cancer surveillance should be performed for those with positive genetic testing as well as those with negative genetic testing who still meet clinical diagnostic criteria. We present two cases of Cowden syndrome: one case involving an increasing number of thyroid nodules in a patient with known Cowden syndrome and another patient with a strong family history of cancer, personal history of follicular thyroid cancer, and numerous colonic polyps on screening colonoscopy. These cases demonstrate how early diagnosis of Cowden syndrome can help detect early cancer in both the patient and affected relatives.

Learning points

  • Diagnosing Cowden syndrome helps pre-risk stratification for early cancer screening.

  • The diagnosis of Cowden syndrome can be made with a combination of major and minor criteria: any two major criteria with or without a minor criterion; one major and one minor criterion; or three minor criteria.

  • Patients who meet the diagnostic criteria for Cowden syndrome should undergo genetic screening.

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