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Prompt Thyroid Cancer Treatment Doesn't Improve Survival Odds

Treating papillary cancer confined to gland within year of diagnosis does not appear to improve survival rate

MONDAY, May 17 (HealthDay News) -- Patients who are definitively treated within a year of diagnosis for papillary thyroid cancer that is limited to the thyroid gland have survival rates that are comparable to those who do not receive definitive treatment, according to a study reported in the May issue of the Archives of Otolaryngology -- Head & Neck Surgery.

Louise Davies, M.D., M.S., and H. Gilbert Welch, M.D., M.P.H., of the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, White River Junction, Vt., and colleagues analyzed data from the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program on 35,663 papillary thyroid cancer patients whose cancer was limited to the thyroid gland. The researchers compared survival rates for those who had definitive treatment (defined as hemithyroidectomy or total thyroidectomy with or without postsurgical irradiation) within a year of diagnosis to those who did not.

The 1.2 percent of the patients who did not have immediate, definitive treatment had a life table estimate of 20-year cancer-specific survival rate of 97 percent, compared to 99 percent for those who did have definitive treatment. The researchers found no significant difference in the number of thyroid cancer deaths for the patients who received immediate definitive treatment and those who didn't.

"Papillary thyroid cancers of any size that are limited to the thyroid gland (no extraglandular extension or lymph node metastases at presentation) have favorable outcomes whether or not they are treated in the first year after diagnosis and whether they are treated by hemithyroidectomy or total thyroidectomy," the authors write.

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