PubMed Review of Ectopic Cervical Thyroid Cancer Cases: Epidemiology, Diagnosis, and Treatment

The September 2011 issue of Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism had an article titled “Ectopic Cervical Thyroid Carcinoma—Review of the Literature with Illustrative Case Series.”  In it, the authors present their conclusions from a PubMed database search on ectopic thyroid cancer in the neck.

Ectopic thyroid cancer is rare. In fact, more than 99% of thyroid cancers are eutopic—within the thyroid gland.

However, ectopic thyroid cancer is possible; the most common sites are lingual, sublingual, thyroglossal, laryngotracheal, and lateral cervical.
Thyroid cancer word cloudAlso, thyroid tissue can be found in more remote structures, particularly those associated with the thyroid anlage during development.  These remote structures include the esophagus, mediastinum, heart, aorta, adrenal glands, pancreas, gall bladder, and skin.

This ectopic thyroid tissue can go through the same pathological process as eutopic thyroid tissue. This includes hyperplasia, inflammation, and tumorigenesis.

The researchers searched the PubMed database for articles that included the keywords “ectopic thyroid cancer.”  The date range was January 1, 1960, and January 1, 2011.  They used clinical case series, case reports, review articles, and practical guidelines as references.  The articles needed to be focused on ectopic thyroid cancer only in the neck region in order to be included in the review.

After reviewing the articles, the researchers offered several conclusions.

  • If there is a pathological mass in the neck, the possibility of an ectopic thyroid cancer should be considered in the differential diagnosis.
  • Ectopic thyroid cancer in the neck region is mostly treated by surgical removal of the malignant lesion.
  • Individualized risk stratification should be the basis for deciding management strategy, which may include total thyroidectomy, neck dissection, and radioiodine treatment.
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