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Head Neck. 1996 Mar-Apr;18(2):127-32.

Impact of lymph node metastasis in differentiated carcinoma of the thyroid: a matched-pair analysis.

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  • 1Head and Neck Service, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York 10021, USA.



Cervical lymph node metastasis in differentiated thyroid carcinoma has mostly been found to have little relationship to prognosis. However, some studies report nodal involvement to be an adverse factor, while others have found it to be favorable. We have undertaken a matched-pair analysis of previously untreated patients, with and without ipsilateral neck metastasis, to examine the significance of nodal spread in patients with otherwise equivalent prognostic factors for differentiated thyroid cancer.


From a database of 931 patients, treated from 1930 to 1980, we used a computer to match patients with confirmed lateral neck metastasis (N1) to those who were stage NO, and had the following identical prognostic factors: no distant metastasis, age (within 4 years), and tumor size, histology, and intrathyroidal extent. When possible, matches were also made for gender, multifocality, and extent of thyroid surgery. Survival and treatment failures were analyzed, with and without stratification for age.


We were able to select 100 N1 patients with corresponding NO patients, sharing the major prognostic risk factors as listed. Overall, there was no difference in survival, although N1 patients more often had recurrence. Mortality increased with age. Analysis at high-risk age (45 years and older) showed significantly more recurrences in N1 patients (p = .008). Twenty-year survival in N1 patients over the age of 45 was lower than that of NO patients. On the other hand, under the age of 45, N1 patients had better survival. These differences, however, did not reach statistical significance.


Nodal involvement in older patients with thyroid cancer increases the risk of recurrence, although no significant difference in survival is observed in relation to age.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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