Background This study assessed the influence of extrathyroid extension (EE) on cause-specific mortality (CSM) and tumor recurrence (TR) in patients treated for papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC). Methods We studied outcome in 3,524 patients with PTC without distant metastases at diagnosis. CSM and TR were investigated in 422 patients with gross EE (GEE) or microscopic EE (MEE). Results The 30-year CSM rate for GEE of 25% was 12-fold greater (P <.001) than 2% seen with surgically intra-thyroid tumors (SIT); no patient who underwent MEE died of PTC. No difference (P =.36) existed in CSM rates between 127 MEE and 3,102 microscopically intra-thyroid tumors (MITs). The 20-year TR rate for GEE was 43% versus 12% with SIT (P <.001). Analyzing only 2,067 pN0 tumors, we found that GEE patients had greater TR rates (all sites), compared with SIT or MEE (P <.001). When 44 MEE were compared with 1,941 MIT cases, TR (all sites) rates were not different (P =.74). In patients aged >45 with tumors <41 mm, 20-year TR rates for MIT (stages I/II) and MEE (stage III) were not different at 4.7% and 3.8% (P =.71). Conclusion MEE without concomitant GEE did not increase rates of either CSM or TR in PTC. Accordingly, these results raise concerns regarding current AJCC staging recommendations.
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