The incidence of papillary thyroid microcarcinoma (PTMC) has been increasing globally in the past few decades. PTMC does not have a distinctive morphology that results in differences in biological behavior. The aim of this study was to classify PTMCs according to the morphological features and explore the relationship with clinicopathological characteristics. Additionally, we sought to evaluate whether different variants of PTMC can be an independent predictor for lymph mode metastasis when considering other risk factors.
Between December 2014 and December 2015, 1041 PTMC cases undergoing surgical resection at Tianjin Medical University Cancer Institute and Hospital were reviewed retrospectively. Statistical analysis was performed to investigate the independent factors for lymph node metastasis in PTMC.
Conventional variant PTMC (CPTMC), follicular variant PTMC (FPTMC), and encapsulated variant PTMC (EnPTMC) were major variants in PTMC, collectively accounting for 96.7% of the entire PTMC cohort.There were significant differences in clinicopathological characteristics among the three major variants. The frequency of aggressive parameters was significantly different among the three variants, including tumor size, minimal extrathyroidal extension (minimal ETE), and lymph node metastasis (all P < 0.05), being highest in CPTMC, lowest in EnPTMC, and intermediate in FPTMC. FPTMC (OR = 0.642, P = 0.003) and EnPTMC (OR = 0.540, P = 0.041) were independent protective factors for lymph node metastasis (LNM). In contrast, male gender (OR = 1.836, P = 0.000), age less than 45 years (OR = 1.457, P = 0.009), tumor size greater than 0.5 cm (OR = 1.453, P = 0.007), calcification (OR = 1.465, P = 0.016), minimal ETE (OR = 1.801, P = 0.001), and multifocality (OR = 1.721, P = 0.000) were independent risk factors for LNM.
The present study demonstrates the distinct biological behaviors of the three major PTMC variants and establishes an aggressive order of CPTMC ≫ FPTMC > EnPTMC. It is necessary to take into consideration variant-related risks and other independent predictors for the determination of lymphadenectomy in patients with PTMC.