Background: Thyroid cancer ranges from well-differentiated lesions with an excellent prognosis to anaplastic carcinoma, which is almost uniformly fatal. Thus, methods to assess the behavior of thyroid malignancies are necessary to arrive at appropriate treatment decisions. Methods: We discuss the factors that affect the prognosis of patients with well-differentiated thyroid malignancies, including papillary, follicular, Hurthle cell, and medullary thyroid carcinomas. We also review the presentation, therapy, and outcome of patients seen at our center over a span of 50 years. These data have identified those prognostic factors that are predictive of survival and recurrence in differentiated thyroid cancer. Results: Several classifications with different variables have been developed to define risk-group categories. Three widely used systems, in addition to the TNM staging system, include AGES, AMES, and MACIS. Conclusions: A better understanding of independently important prognostic variables will result in improved patient care and treatment.
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