Just as I did when I had done research on Hurthle Cells way back when I was diagnosed with a Hurthle Cell Lesion and wanted to understand what that meant, I want to put down here some of what I have learned about the particular variety of cancer I was diagnosed with after my first surgery: Follicular Variant Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma, FVPTC.
The very first things I read indicated that FVPTC pretty much behaves the same and is treated the same as “Classical” PTC (cPTC). Since then I have read a good deal more, and have found that this is not always the case. In both cPTC and FVPTC, it makes a difference if the tumor is encapsulated or diffuse (spread out with no clear margins in the tissue). Just like you might think, diffuse tumors tend to spread more readily and are considered more “aggressive.”
There is also an “in between” type that is not encapsulated but is not diffuse–From what I have read, it tends to behave more like encapsulated tumors and is, as these authors love to say, more “indolent.” I haven’t found much about that, so cant say more.
Then there is a great deal of research published within the last two to three years that examines encapsulated FVPTC (EnFPTC) versus unencapsulated. See this, this, and this. The basic takeaways are two-fold.
One is that FVPTC tends to behave more like FTC (Follicular Thyroid Carcinoma) rather than PTC. That means it is more likely to spread distantly through the blood than to reoccur locally in the neck (in lymph nodes, etc.) It also means that a totally encapsulated FVPTC might even be considered benign. In FTC, malignancy is determined by capsular or vascular invasion.
The other take-away is that encapsulated FVPTC is generally very non-aggressive. It seldom spreads anywhere. There is a good deal of debate about whether it warrants a total thyroidectomy if there is no vascular invasion. Even with capsular invasion, some authors believe a total thyroidectomy is not worth doing.
Then there is an alternate point of view, that encapsulated FVPTC can have vascular invasion that is so microscopic as to be almost undetected, and that in such cases a tumor that looks to be harmless could end up with distant metastases years later.
So all of this was what I have waded through since my diagnosis, what I’ve struggled with as I decided whether to have the completion surgery or not. What it comes down to is that I do not believe completion surgery will change my prognosis, but it will lower my risk of recurrence and make it easier to be monitored going down the road. I put my trust in my God to continue with me down this path, wherever it leads me.
And in a few minutes, I’ll be headed over to the hospital for my surgery. Last time I was anxious about having surgery–since I’d never really done that–and about what they would find. This time I know what to expect and the procedure doesn’t worry me. I don’t really expect them to find any more cancer, but know it is a possibility. This time, I am more concerned about adjusting to life without a thyroid, life on a daily med. Again I put my trust in the Father to take me forward one step at a time.
See you on the flip side.