Delphian node involvement may mean worse outlook for thyroid cancer

A new study has determined that when thyroid cancer metastasizes in the Delphian lymph node, there is a higher likelihood that many parts of the neck will be involved as well.

The report, which appears in the Annals of Surgery, notes that cancerous growth in this particular lymph node nearly doubles the likelihood that a case of papillary thyroid cancer will extend beyond the bounds of the thyroid gland.

Endocrinologists at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York came to this conclusion after examining the Delphian nodes of 101 patients who underwent operations to remove papillary carcinomas.

The Delphian node is a lymph node found within the lower half of the neck, and is in close proximity to the thyroid gland itself. The research team compiled data on metastasis of thyroid cancer in the Delphian node and found that its involvement indicates that other lymph nodes are likely to be cancerous as well.

The group calculated that 52 percent of papillary thyroid cancer patients whose Delphian node tested positive for cancer had metastasis in other lymph nodes and areas of the neck.

By comparison, just 28 percent of those with a cancer-free Delphian node experienced the spread of the disease throughout their neck.

Papillary thyroid cancer is the most common form of the disease, affecting more than 70 percent of all Americans diagnosed with a thyroid carcinoma, according to the Columbia University Department of Surgery.

It is also unlikely to spread beyond the thyroid, compared to other forms of the disease. Therefore, the occurrence of Delphian node cancer may be a reliable indicator that papillary thyroid cancer has metastasized, the team concluded.

Paul J. Donald's The Difficult Case in Head and Neck Cancer Surgery notes that Delphian node involvement should strongly sway doctors toward radiotherapy and the removal of the lymph nodes around the trachea.

More than 31,000 Americans are diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer every year, according to the National Cancer Institute.