Surgery for lymph node metastases of medullary thyroid carcinoma

Medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) is a neuroendocrine malignancy of the thyroid C cells, and can commonly spread to cervical and mediastinal lymph nodes. MTC cells do not concentrate radioactive iodine and are not sensitive to hormonal manipulation, and therefore surgery is the only effective option for curative therapy, reduction in tumor burden or effective palliation. In patients undergoing preventative operations for hereditary MTC, central lymph node dissection should be considered if the calcitonin level is above 40 pg/ml. Systematic removal of at-risk or involved lymph node compartments should be performed in all patients with palpable primary tumors and recurrent disease, and a ‘berry-picking’ approach should be avoided.

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