6: Thyroid nodules and thyroid cancer

Emily J Mackenzie and Robin H Mortimer
Med J Aust 2004; 180 (5): 242-247.


  • Thyroid nodules are common clinically (prevalence, about 5%) and even more common on ultrasound examination (about 25%).

  • About 5% of thyroid nodules are malignant.

  • Most thyroid cancers are well-differentiated papillary or follicular tumours with an excellent prognosis (10-year survival, 80%–95%).

  • The incidence of papillary thyroid cancer appears to be increasing on the east coast of Australia.

  • Fine-needle aspiration biopsy of the thyroid is the most cost-effective diagnostic tool.

  • Recommended initial management of all follicular carcinomas and of papillary carcinomas > 1.0 cm is total thyroidectomy followed by radioiodine ablation.

  • Most patients should be managed postoperatively with doses of thyroid hormone sufficient to suppress plasma levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone.

  • Recurrences can occur many years after initial therapy, and follow-up should be lifelong.

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  • Emily J Mackenzie1
  • Robin H Mortimer2

  • Department of Endocrinology, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, Brisbane, QLD.


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