A quantitative assessment of the number of disease foci in papillary thyroid cancer

Published:November 29, 2022DOI:



      Multifocality is a frequent feature of papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC). Its prognostic value is controversial although national guidelines recommend treatment intensification if present. However, multifocality is not a binary but discrete variable. This study aimed to examine the association between increasing number of foci and risk of recurrence following treatment.


      577 patients with PTC were identified with median follow-up of 61 months. Number of foci were taken from pathology reports. Log-rank test was used to assess significance. Multivariate analysis was performed and Hazard Ratios were calculated.


      Of 577 patients, 206(35%) had multifocal disease and 36(6%) recurred. 133(23%), 89(15%) and 61(11%) had 3+, 4+ or 5+ foci respectively. The 5-year RFS stratified by number of foci was 95%v93% for 2+foci (p = 0.616), 95%v96% for 3+foci (p = 0.198) and 89%v96% for 4+foci (p = 0.022). The presence of 4 foci was associated with an over 2-fold risk of recurrence (HR 2.296, 95% CI 1.106–4.765, p = 0.026) although this was not independent of TNM staging. Of the 206 multifocal patients, 31(5%) had 4+foci as their sole risk factor for treatment intensification.


      Although multifocality per se does not confer worse outcome in PTC, finding 4+foci is associated with worse outcome and could therefore be appropriate as a cut-off for treatment intensification. In our cohort, 5% of patients had 4+foci as a sole indication for treatment intensification, suggesting that such a cut off could impact clinical management.


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