Should 'low-risk' thyroid cancer patients with residual thyroglobulin be re-treated with iodine 131?

Elif Hindié, Paolo Zanotti-Fregonara, Françoise Duron, Isabelle Keller, Philippe Bouchard, Jean Yves Devaux

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Objective: The American consensus statement on patients with low-risk thyroid cancer, published in 2003, suggests repeat 131I therapy if the thyroglobulin value is elevated at first follow-up. We evaluated this strategy in our practice. Methods: Among 407 patients with thyroid cancer who had total thyroidectomy and 131I ablation between January 2000 and December 2003, 12 patients with stage I thyroid cancer (any tumour (T), any node (N), metastasis (M)0 if < 45 years or T1, N0, M0 if > 45 years), were re-treated on the basis of their thyroglobulin level at first follow-up. Mean patient age was 32.8 years. None of them had a T4 tumour. Thyroglobulin levels after thyroid hormone withdrawal 'off-T4' ranged between 4.5 and 251 ng/ml (median 8). One to four courses of 3.7 GBq 131I were given. Results: Three patients had a negative 131I therapy scan and an uneventful course. Two patients had slight residual uptake only in the thyroid bed and negative ultrasound examination. Four patients had isolated 131I uptake in the mediastinal region. No abnormalities were found on complementary mediastinal imaging. This finding was interpreted as benign 131I thymic uptake. The last three patients also had mediastinal thymic uptake associated with a slight thyroid bed uptake. One patient had a gradual increase in the thyroglobulin level, and underwent resection of nonfunctioning neck lymph nodes. Thyroglobulin levels declined in all other patients. Conclusions: No distant lesions were found in a group of young 'low-risk' thyroid cancer patients given empirical 131I therapy for residual thyroglobulin. When blind 131I therapy shows no uptake, or uptake limited to the thymus, 131I therapy should not be repeated. The authors also briefly discuss the hypothesis that enhanced thymus might be a source of benign thyroglobulin secretion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)329-334
Number of pages6
JournalClinical Endocrinology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology


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