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Elizabeth G. Grubbs and Douglas B. Evans

The preoperative evaluation of the clinically N0 neck and the operative management of cervical lymph nodes in patients with papillary and medullary thyroid cancer remains controversial. The appreciation that even patients with low-risk disease have a significant risk for recurrence has generated interest in a more comprehensive preoperative evaluation of the neck and has renewed debate on the extent of lymphadenectomy at the time of thyroidectomy. The authors recommend using preoperative ultrasound before thyroidectomy for all patients with thyroid cancer and before any subsequent surgeries for recurrent disease to identify the extent of lymph node metastases and thereby facilitate complete surgical removal of all gross disease in the neck. The optimal surgical procedure for removing cervical lymphadenopathy is compartment-oriented neck dissection based on the findings from preoperative ultrasound.

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Maria A. Kouvaraki, Suzanne E. Shapiro, Jeffrey E. Lee, Douglas B. Evans and Nancy D. Perrier

Thyroid carcinoma has a unique biologic behavior characterized by early spread to regional lymph nodes and occasional extrathyroidal soft tissue extension but a low incidence of distant metastasis and infrequent disease-related death. Therefore, controversy exists over the proper extent of thyroidectomy and regional lymph node dissection in patients with differentiated thyroid carcinoma (DTC) and medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC). The modest disease-specific mortality makes it unlikely that the extent of surgery will ever be the subject of a prospective randomized trial. Although more extensive cervical surgery may have only a limited effect on the duration of survival in patients with DTC, it may significantly improve quality of life by minimizing cervical recurrence. The high rates of cervical recurrence in patients with DTC and MTC have alerted physicians to the importance of fine-needle aspiration biopsy and ultrasonography for the diagnosis, preoperative staging, and follow-up of thyroid cancer. In patients with MTC, death caused by disease is uncommon in the absence of radiographically evident distant metastasis at the time of thyroidectomy. Cervical recurrence is even more common with MTC, and the need for compartment-oriented lymphadenectomy is accepted as standard surgical treatment to minimize disease recurrence. Postoperatively, calcitonin (CT) levels can be used to guide clinical management, but basal CT levels should not be used to direct the timing of prophylactic thyroidectomy in affected high-risk patients with familial MTC.

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Amy Waller, Charles Douglas, Rob Sanson-Fisher, Nicholas Zdenkowski, Angela Pearce, Tiffany Evans and Justin Walsh

Objectives: This study surveyed a sample of medical oncology outpatients to determine (1) the proportion who have already discussed and documented their end-of-life (EOL) wishes; (2) when and with whom they would prefer to convey their EOL wishes; (3) the EOL issues they would want to discuss; and (4) the association between perceived cancer status and advance care planning (ACP) participation. Methods: Adult medical oncology outpatients were approached in the waiting room of an Australian tertiary treatment center. Consenting participants completed a pen-and-paper survey assessing participation in ACP, preferences for conveying EOL wishes, timing of EOL discussions, and EOL issues they want to be asked about. Results: A total of 203 patients returned the survey (47% of eligible). EOL discussions occurred more frequently with support persons (47%) than with doctors (7%). Only 14% had recorded their wishes, and 45% had appointed an enduring guardian. Those who perceived their cancer as incurable were more likely to have participated in ACP. If facing EOL, patients indicated that they would want family involved in discussions (85%), to be able to write down EOL wishes (82%), and to appoint enduring guardians (91%). Many (45%) preferred the first discussion to happen when their disease became incurable. Slightly less than one-third thought discussions regarding EOL should be patient-initiated. Most agreed doctors should ask about preferred decision-making involvement (92%), how important it is that pain is managed well (95%), and how important it is to remain conscious (82%). Fewer (55%) wanted to be asked about the importance of care extending life. Conclusions: Many patients would like to have discussions regarding EOL care with their doctor and involve their support persons in this process. Only a small percentage of respondents had discussed EOL care with their doctors, recorded their wishes, or appointed an enduring guardian. The first step requires clinicians to ask whether an individual patient wishes to discuss EOL issues, in what format, and at what level of detail.