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Thyroid. 1998 Mar;8(3):215-21.

Treatment of micronodular lung metastases of papillary thyroid cancer: are the tumors too small for effective irradiation from radioiodine?

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Department of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan Medical Center, Ann Arbor, USA.


Our purpose was to determine if micronodular lung metastases from papillary thyroid cancer had diameters that were less than 1 mm and therefore of a size for which irradiation by radioiodine (131I) is inefficient. In five patients, lung metastases seen on computed tomography (CT) were enumerated and sized in the entire right lung and right upper lung giving volumes of measurable, ie, more than 1 mm diameter, tumors. Concentrations of diagnostic 131I were quantified scintigraphically in the same regions. Fractions of administered 131I per milliliter of tumor and the absorbed radiation from the subsequent treatments were calculated to see if the 131I levels in lungs were greater than expected for the visible tumor volumes. Two other patients manifesting similar findings had lung biopsies that were reviewed for size of metastases. The calculated fractions of administered activity per milliliter of tumor and the absorbed radiations from the treatments with 131I were exceptionally high. Biopsies revealed numerous tumors below the resolution of CT. We conclude that the fractions of administered activity and absorbed radiations of 131I in tumors were high because the measured tumor volumes underestimated the total tumor volumes. Many lung metastases were less than 1 mm in diameter.

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