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Surgical approach to the management of medullary thyroid cancer: when is lymph node dissection needed?

OBJECTIVE: Medullary thyroid cancer (MTC) is a rare and particularly aggressive type of thyroid cancer of neuroendocrine origin. It occurs in hereditary and sporadic forms and its aggressiveness is related to the clinical presentation and the type of RET mutation.

METHODS: In this article, we present the criteria, as reviewed in contemporary literature, regarding lymph node dissection and radical neck dissection in patients with either sporadic or hereditary MTC.

RESULTS: Early diagnosis and treatment remains the key to a 100% cure rate.

CONCLUSIONS: Routine central lymph node dissection is the minimum procedure recommended for all sporadic and hereditary MTCs. Routine lateral lymph node dissection on either side is necessary when lymph node metastases are found in the central neck compartment.

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