Thyroid cancer and lymph node metastases
There is considerable controversy about the prognostic implications of lymph node metastases in patients with papillary thyroid cancer and whether patients with papillary thyroid cancer should have a prophylactic or selective central (level VI) neck dissection. Some experts report that a prophylactic ipsilateral neck dissection results in fewer patients having elevated thyroglobulin levels but others do not agree. A comprehensive review of the literature suggests that the presence of macroscopic metastases of papillary thyroid cancer in cervical lymph nodes results in a higher recurrence rate and increased death rate, especially in patients 45 years of age or older, whereas microscopic nodal metastases do not appear to adversely influence survival. Until more information is available we recommend preoperative ultrasonography and a selective ipsilateral neck dissection for patients with papillary thyroid cancer.