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Diagn Cytopathol. 2006 May;34(5):330-4.

Does Hurthle cell lesion/neoplasm predict malignancy more than follicular lesion/neoplasm on thyroid fine-needle aspiration?

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Cancer Center, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.


Thyroid fine-needle aspiration (FNA) is a standard procedure for the clinical triage of thyroid nodules. The diagnosis of an adequately sampled thyroid FNA is generally grouped into three categories: benign, malignant, and indeterminate. The latter group usually includes follicular neoplasm, follicular lesion, and sometimes a more specific diagnosis such as Hurthle cell neoplasm or follicular lesion/neoplasm with Hurthle cell change. Whether a FNA diagnosis of Hurthle cell lesion/neoplasm (HLN) denotes a worse clinical outcome than follicular lesion/neoplasm (FLN) remains controversial. A cohort of 303 thyroid FNA cases with follow-up thyroidectomy in our institutes was identified, with the follow-up excision diagnosis compared to the FNA diagnosis in order to address this issue. Of this cohort, 87 cases had an FNA diagnosis of HLN while 216 cases had a diagnosis of FLN. Upon excision, the FNA diagnosis of HLN group had 14 cases of goiter/nodular hyperplasia (16%), 46 cases of adenoma (12 follicular adenoma (14%) and 34 cases of Hurthle cell adenoma (39%)), and 27 cases of carcinoma (31%, 12 papillary carcinoma and 15 Hurthle cell carcinoma). The FLN group had 74 cases of goiter/nodular hyperplasia (34.3%), 8 cases of Hashimoto thyroiditis (3.7%), 73 cases of follicular adenoma (33.8%), one case of granular cell tumor, and 60 cases of carcinoma (27.8%, 46 papillary carcinoma, 12 follicular carcinoma, and 1 Hurthle cell carcinoma and 1 parathyroid carcinoma) upon excision. There is no significant difference in predicting cancer between the two cytology diagnosis groups (HLN versus FLN, 31% versus 27.8%, P = 0.5771). When sorting all the cases by the surgical diagnosis, while comparable for age at diagnosis, the cancer group having the higher proportion of male patients than the non-cancer group (28.7% versus 16.7%, P = 0.0259). Hurthle cell carcinoma patients are typically older than patients with other cancer diagnoses (59 versus 44, P = 0.0077). Our results suggest that an FNA diagnosis of HLN does not predict more malignancy than FLN. Males and older patients with a HLN FNA diagnosis carry a higher risk of Hurthle cell carcinoma upon thyroidectomy.

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