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Consensus Statement Standardizes Description of Neck Surgery to Treat Thyroid Cancer

New Rochelle, NY, November 19, 2009—To achieve greater uniformity in the description and performance of neck surgery to remove thyroid tumors, leaders in the fields of thyroid disease management and surgery have jointly developed a consensus statement published in Thyroid, a peer-reviewed journal published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. ( Thyroid is the official journal of the American Thyroid Association (ATA). The report is available free online at

The comprehensive consensus statement, intended to promote consistent and clear communication among physicians treating patients with thyroid cancer, represents a collaborative effort between four major professional organizations led by the American Thyroid Association (ATA) Surgery Working Group, with participation from the American Association of Endocrine Surgeons, the American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery, and the American Head and Neck Society.

Two key concepts are defined in the consensus statement: which groups of lymph nodes should be removed during dissection of the central neck compartment; and what parameters should be used to define the purpose and extent of the surgical procedure. The statement proposes standardized terminology that should be used in the reporting of studies on the effectiveness and safety of central neck surgery for thyroid cancer in the medical literature.

The ATA Surgery Working Group concluded that central neck dissection procedures should involve, at a minimum, removal of the major lymph node groups in the central neck compartment—the prelaryngeal, pretracheal, and paratracheal lymph nodes—and not only those nodes showing evidence of cancer. Furthermore, physicians should clearly state whether the surgery is being done for preventive or therapeutic purposes and whether removal of lymph nodes will be unilateral or bilateral.

“Once again, the ATA has shown it is the major international force in advancing the care of patients with thyroid disease,” said Terry Davies, MD, President of the American Thyroid Association and Florence and Theodore Baumritter Professor of Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine (New York, NY). “These guidelines will ensure clarity in one of the most contentious areas of a patient’s surgical care. The ATA Surgical Affairs Committee and the Surgical Task Force members are to be congratulated on advancing the treatment of patients with thyroid cancer.”

“This Consensus statement should be very useful to surgeons who are working to develop the best approaches for treating thyroid cancer. It will also help the dialog between them and their endocrinologist counterparts as they plan the care of their mutual patients," said Charles H. Emerson, MD, Editor-in-Chief of Thyroid and Professor Emeritus of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts School of Medicine (Worcester, MA).

The American Thyroid Association (ATA) is the lead organization in promoting thyroid health and understanding thyroid biology. The ATA values scientific inquiry, clinical excellence, public service, education, collaboration, and collegiality. ATA members are physicians, scientists, and other healthcare professionals who work to enhance the understanding of thyroid physiology and pathophysiology, improve diagnosis and treatment of thyroid diseases, and promote the education of physicians, patients, and the public about thyroid disease and thyroid cancer. Thyroid diseases are the most common disorders of the endocrine system, affecting almost 13 million Americans.