Background: Cytological limitations pose a challenge to preoperative diagnosis of medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) and therefore, a significant subset of patients is only diagnosed postoperatively. The objective of this study was to investigate the impact of knowledge of a preoperative MTC diagnosis on disease management and outcomes. Methods: Multicenter, retrospective, cohort study of MTC patients treated in Israel from January 2000 to June 2021. We compared cohorts of patients according to the presence or absence of a preoperative MTC diagnosis. Results: Ninety-four patients with histologically confirmed MTC were included (mean age 56.2 ± 14.3 years, 43% males). Fifty-three patients (56%) had a preoperative MTC diagnosis (preop-Dx group), and 41 (44%) were confirmed only postoperatively (no-Dx group). The extent of surgical resection, including completion procedures, was as follows: total thyroidectomy in 83% versus 100% (p = 0.002), central lymph node dissection (LND) in 46% versus 98% (p < 0.001), ipsilateral lateral LND in 36% versus 79% (p < 0.001), and contralateral lateral LND in 17% versus 28% (NS), in the no-Dx versus the preop-Dx group, respectively. Pathology confirmed a smaller median tumor size of 16 ± 17.4 mm versus 23 ± 14.0 mm (p = 0.09), a higher proportion of micro-MTC (size ≤10 mm) 32% versus 15% (p = 0.03), and a higher rate of co-occurrence of follicular cell-derived carcinoma 24% versus 4% (p = 0.003), in the no-Dx compared to the preop-Dx group, respectively. The rates of extrathyroidal and extranodal tumor extension were not significantly different between the groups. At the last follow-up, the biochemical cure was attained in 55% [CI 0.38-0.71] compared to 64% [CI 0.50-0.77] of the no-Dx and the preop-Dx group, respectively (p = 0.41). After the exclusion of patients with micro-MTC, biochemical cure was more commonly achieved in the preop-Dx group (33% [CI 0.14-0.52] vs. 62% [CI 0.46-0.77], p = 0.04). Preop-Dx patients had improved overall survival compared to the no-Dx group (log-rank p = 0.04) over a median follow-up of 82 months (interquartile range [IQR] 30-153). Conclusions: Preoperatively, the diagnosis of MTC is often missed. An accurate preoperative diagnosis of MTC may enable guideline-concordant surgical treatment and ultimately contribute to an overall survival benefit in MTC patients.
- medullary thyroid carcinoma
- preoperative diagnosis