Management of low-risk thyroid cancers: Is active surveillance a valid option? a systematic review of the literature

Renato Patrone, Nunzio Velotti, Stefania Masone, Alessandra Conzo, Luigi Flagiello, Chiara Cacciatore, Marco Filardo, Vincenza Granata, Francesco Izzo, Domenico Testa, Stefano Avenia, Alessandro Sanguinetti, Andrea Polistena, Giovanni Conzo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Thyroid cancer is the most common endocrine malignancy, representing 2.9% of all new cancers in the United States. It has an excellent prognosis, with a five-year relative survival rate of 98.3%.Differentiated Thyroid Carcinomas (DTCs) are the most diagnosed thyroid tumors and are characterized by a slow growth rate and indolent course. For years, the only approach to treatment was thyroidectomy. Active surveillance (AS) has recently emerged as an alternative approach; it involves regular observation aimed at recognizing the minority of patients who will clinically progress and would likely benefit from rescue surgery. To better clarify the indications for active surveillance for low-risk thyroid cancers, we reviewed the current management of low-risk DTCs with a systematic search performed according to a PRISMA flowchart in electronic databases (PubMed, Web of Science, Scopus, and EMBASE) for studies published before May 2021. Fourteen publications were included for final analysis, with a total number of 4830 patients under AS. A total of 451/4830 (9.4%) patients experienced an increase in maximum diameter by >3 mm; 609/4830 (12.6%) patients underwent delayed surgery after AS; metastatic spread to cervical lymph nodes was present in 88/4213 (2.1%) patients; 4/3589 (0.1%) patients had metastatic disease outside of cervical lymph nodes. Finally, no subject had a documented mortality due to thyroid cancer during AS. Currently, the American Thyroid Association guidelines do not support AS as the first-line treatment in patients with PMC; however, they consider AS to be an effective alternative, particularly in patients with high surgical risk or poor life expectancy due to comorbid conditions. Thus, AS could be an alternative to immediate surgery for patients with very-low-risk tumors showing no cytologic evidence of aggressive disease, for high-risk surgical candidates, for those with concurrent comorbidities requiring urgent intervention, and for patients with a relatively short life expectancy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3569
JournalJournal of Clinical Medicine
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2 2021


  • Active surveillance
  • Thyroid cancer
  • Thyroid surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Management of low-risk thyroid cancers: Is active surveillance a valid option? a systematic review of the literature'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this