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Follicular adenoma and carcinoma of the thyroid gland.

Follicular neoplasms of the thyroid gland include benign follicular adenoma and follicular carcinoma. Currently, a follicular carcinoma cannot be distinguished from a follicular adenoma based on cytologic, sonographic, or clinical features alone. The pathogenesis of follicular carcinoma may be related to iodine deficiency and various oncogene and/or microRNA activation. Advances in molecular testing for genetic mutations may soon allow for preoperative differentiation of follicular carcinoma from follicular adenoma. Until then, a patient with a follicular neoplasm should undergo a diagnostic thyroid lobectomy and isthmusectomy, which is definitive treatment for a benign follicular adenoma or a minimally invasive follicular cancer. Additional therapy is necessary for invasive follicular carcinoma including completion thyroidectomy, postoperative radioactive iodine ablation, whole body scanning, and thyrotropin suppressive doses of thyroid hormone. Less than 10% of patients with follicular carcinoma will have lymph node metastases, and a compartment-oriented neck dissection is reserved for patients with macroscopic disease. Regular follow-up includes history and physical examination, cervical ultrasound and serum TSH, and thyroglobulin and antithyroglobulin antibody levels. Other imaging studies are reserved for patients with an elevated serum thyroglobulin level and a negative cervical ultrasound. Systemic metastases most commonly involve the lung and bone and less commonly the brain, liver, and skin. Microscopic metastases are treated with high doses of radioactive iodine. Isolated macroscopic metastases can be resected with an improvement in survival. The overall ten-year survival for patients with minimally invasive follicular carcinoma is 98% compared with 80% in patients with invasive follicular carcinoma.

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