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Year : 2012  |  Volume : 16  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 651-653

Nodular goiter with multiple cystic and solid swellings

Department of Endocrinology, PGIMER, Chandigarh, India

Date of Web Publication5-Jul-2012

Correspondence Address:
Sanjay Kumar Bhadada
Department of Endocrinology, PGIMER, Chandigarh - 160 012
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2230-8210.98034

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Thyroid nodules are very common in the general population, but only 5% are malignant. We report the case of a man presenting with nodular goiter, and multiple swellings over the scalp and arm, with pathological fractures. On evaluation by fine needle aspiration, these swellings were found to be metastases from follicular thyroid carcinoma. The patient underwent total thyroidectomy, radioiodine ablation, resection of the bone lesion, and L-thyroxine suppressive therapy, with no recurrence / metastasis over a five-year follow-up.

Keywords: Follicular thyroid carcinoma, metastasis, radioiodine ablation

How to cite this article:
Rastogi A, Bhadada SK, Bhansali A. Nodular goiter with multiple cystic and solid swellings. Indian J Endocr Metab 2012;16:651-3

How to cite this URL:
Rastogi A, Bhadada SK, Bhansali A. Nodular goiter with multiple cystic and solid swellings. Indian J Endocr Metab [serial online] 2012 [cited 2021 May 13];16:651-3. Available from: https://www.ijem.in/text.asp?2012/16/4/651/98034

   Introduction Top

Thyroid nodules are very common in clinical practice. Their prevalence depends, to a great extent, on the method used for detection. By palpation, which is the least sensitive method, approximately 5% of the people are found to have nodules. [1] Based on an ultrasound investigation, a frequency of thyroid nodular disease as high as 30 - 40% (in women) and 20 - 30% (in men) of the adult population, in iodine-deficient areas, has been reported [2]

Although most thyroid nodules are benign, approximately 5% harbor malignancy [1] Follicular thyroid cancer (FTC) is the second most common among the differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC), which usually presents as an asymptomatic solitary intra-thyroid nodule. Distant metastases occur in less than 10% of the patients with papillary (PTC) and follicular thyroid carcinoma [3] Follicular carcinoma is uncommon in males, especially at a young age. Furthermore, metastasis from a DTC presenting as a swelling and a pathological fracture is uncommon.

We report a man presenting with nodular goiter, and multiple metastatic swelling over his scalp and arm.

   Case Report Top

A 35-year-old male, with a painless thyroid swelling for 15 years, presented with a slowly increasing painless swelling over the scalp for two years and a painful swelling over the left upper arm after a trivial trauma for 15 days. He gave no history of any recent change in the thyroid swelling, pressure symptoms, bony pains, weight loss or any symptoms suggestive of hypo- or hyperfunction of the thyroid gland.

On examination, his pulse was 80/ minute, regular, blood pressure 120 / 70 mmHg, and body mass index was 20.2 Kg / m 2 . He had a grade III, non-tender, nodular goiter (right lobe), but no bruit, enlarged, firm cervical lymph nodes of varying size (1 cm - 2.5 cm), and a 10 cm in diameter cystic, non-tender scalp swelling [Figure 1]a. He also had a left upper arm swelling, which was bony and hard, with restriction of movements at the shoulder joint.

Investigation revealed hemoglobin 11 gm / dl (11.5 - 14) with normal serum biochemistry including corrected calcium 9.5 mg / dl, PO 4 3.3 mg / dl, and alkaline phosphatase 9 KA units (3-13). A hormonal work-up revealed T3 1.13 ng / ml (N 0.5 - 1.6), T4 49 ng / ml (N 45 - 125), TSH 1.74 μIU / ml (N 0.5 - 5), and serum PTH (intact) 35 pg / ml (N 12 - 70). His radiological investigations are displayed in [Figure 1]a, b and [Figure 2]a, b. Ultrasonography of the neck revealed a hyper echoic lesion (5 × 4 cm) in the right lobe, with areas of calcification. Fine needle aspiration cytology (FNAC) from the thyroid gland, lymph node, scalp, and a bony swelling over the left arm revealed a similar morphology, suggestive of follicular carcinoma.
Figure 1: (a) Clinical photograph showing large soft tissue swelling over scalp. (Arrow), (b) X-ray skull lateral view showing lytic lesion over skull. (Arrow)

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Figure 2: (a) X-ray left humerus showing lytic lesion over upper half of shaft and head of humerus. (Arrow), (b) X-ray pelvis showing lytic lesions obturator margins of the pubis bone. (Arrow)

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The patient underwent total thyroidectomy and histopathology of the respected thyroid mass and confirmed the diagnosis of differentiated follicular thyroid carcinoma. He received radioiodine ablation and resection of the bone lesion in the upper humerus and is presently on L-thyroxine suppressive therapy, with no recurrence / metastasis over five years of follow-up.

   Discussion Top

Differentiated follicular and papillary thyroid carcinomas are generally most indolent, solid neoplasms, with long-term survival. Nevertheless, a hematogenous spread from the FTC may occur to distant sites, such as, the lung, bone, and brain; although metastasis to the bone is not common. The vertebrae, pelvis, ribs, and sternum are frequently affected bones, while the skull bone and humerus are less commonly involved [4]

In the present case, euthyroid nodular goiter, with cervical lymphadenopathy suggested the diagnosis of thyroid carcinoma. Other differential diagnoses in such a setting are summarized in [Table 1]. However, considering the swelling over the scalp and the left upper arm as hematogenous seedlings from a nodular lesion of the thyroid, diagnosis of follicular thyroid carcinoma with metastases was made. Similar cell-cytology from all four sites (thyroid, lymph node, scalp, and upper arm swelling) laid support to the diagnosis.
Table 1: Differential diagnosis of euthyroid nodular goiter with cervical lymphadenopathy

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The bone metastases are recognized by X-ray, computed tomography (CT), 99m Tc MDP bone scan, and 131 I whole body scan after total thyroidectomy. The radiology revealed lytic lesions in the upper humerus, pelvis, and skull, suggestive of synchronous bone metastases in the present case. This was further substantiated by the 131 I whole body scan. Bone metastases at the time of diagnosis of thyroid cancer is seen in 40 - 75% of the cases and is known as synchronous metastasis, like in the present case. [5] In a large series of 444 patients of DTC, bone metastases were the only site in 36% of the patients with FTC and 12% of patients with PTC, and in 22% of the patients younger than 60 years and 34% of the patients over 60 years. [6] Synchronous metastasis is a strong predictor of a poor outcome. The metastatic lesions are quite frequent in the vertebrae (27%) and pelvis (23%), however, such lesions in the long bones and skull are less common (6% each [4] Multiple bone site involvement at a given time is also quite frequent (40%), as seen in our patient. [7]

Patients with metastatic disease need a complete workup. The extent of disease is appreciated by a 131 I whole body scan following total thyroidectomy. Radioiodine (131I) is the main treatment modality in patients, with I 131 uptake, and may be associated with local treatments such as external beam radiation therapy or surgery. [8] Bone metastatic deposits usually do not respond favorably to I 131 ablative therapy and patients seldom survive 10 years after treatment. The poor response to radioiodine is apparently due to the lower capacity of the bone lesion to take I 131 .

Multi-site bone metastasis is associated with decreased survival, but Pittas et al. have reported survival with single bone metastasis as being no different from those with multiple bone metastasis. [9] Unresectable bone metastases with good tracer uptake (I 131 ) can be treated with radioiodine. The index case had synchronous multisite bone metastasis and was managed with me 131 . However, patients with localized bone disease (solitary metastasis) subjected to radical resection yield a longer disease-free interval and better quality of life.

Univariate analysis for disease-specific survival in metastatic thyroid carcinoma indicated metachronous bone metastasis and the presence of distant metastasis at sites other than the bone, as indicators of a significantly worse prognosis. The type of cancer (PTC or FTC) was not a significant indicator of prognosis. A significant survival advantage was observed among patients who underwent radioactive iodine therapy, and better prognosis seemed to be obtained with greater doses of radioactive iodine. Operative resection of metastatic bone lesions also seemed to be associated with better prognosis. [3]

Follow-up of these patients must include a yearly I 131 whole body scan and estimation of serum thyroglobulin after discontinuing L-thyroxine. Despite the good prognosis for differentiated thyroid carcinomas, 10% of all patients with papillary and 20 - 40% with follicular carcinoma, die as a result of complications from distant metastases.

To conclude, follicular thyroid cancer may present as cystic and bony swellings without any local neck manifestations. Total thyroidectomy and radioiodine 131 I have survival benefit.

   References Top

1.Bahn RS, Castro MR. Approach to the patient with nontoxic multinodular goiter. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2011;96:1202-12.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Krohn K, Führer D, Bayer Y, Eszlinger M, Brauer V, Neumann S, et al. Molecular pathogenesis of euthyroid and toxic multinodular goiter. Endocr Rev 2005; 26:504-24.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Orita Y , Sugitani I, Matsuura M, Ushijima M, Tsukahara K, Fujimoto Y, et al. Prognostic factors and the therapeutic strategy for patients with bone metastasis from differentiated thyroid carcinoma. Surgery 2010; 147:424-31.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Marcocci C, Pacini F, Elisei R, Schipani E, Ceccarelli C, Miccoli P, et al. Clinical and biologic behaviour of bone metastases from differentiated thyroid carcinoma. Surgery 1989; 106:960-6.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Do YM, Rhee Y, Kim DJ, Kim CS, Nam KJ, Ahn CW, et al. Clinical features of bone metastasis resulting from thyroid cancer: A review of 28 patients over a 20 year period. Endocr J 2005; 52:701-7.  Back to cited text no. 5
6.Durante C, Haddy N, Baudin E, Leboulleux S, Hartl D, Travagli JP, et al. Long-term outcome of 444 patients with distant metastases from papillary and follicular thyroid carcinoma: Benefits and limits of radioiodine therapy. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2006;91:2892-9.  Back to cited text no. 6
7.Ruegemer JJ, Hay ID, Bergstralh EJ, Ryan JJ, Offord KP, Gorman CA. Distant metastases in differentiated thyroid carcinoma: A multivariate analysis of prognostic variables. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 1988;67:501-8.  Back to cited text no. 7
8.Robbins RJ, Schlumberger MJ. The evolving role of 131 I for the treatment of differentiated thyroid carcinoma. J Nucl Med 2005; 46:28S-37.  Back to cited text no. 8
9.Pittas AG, Adler M, Fazzari M, Tickoo S, Rosai J, Larson SM, et al. Bone metastasis from thyroid carcinoma: Clinical characteristics and prognostic variables in one hundred and forty six patients. Thyroid 2000; 10:261-8.  Back to cited text no. 9


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2]

  [Table 1]

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