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      Management of metastatic thyroid cancer in pregnancy: risk and uncertainty


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          Metastatic thyroid cancer is an uncommon condition to be present at the time of pregnancy, but presents a challenging paradigm of care. Clinicians must balance the competing interests of long-term maternal health, best achieved by iatrogenic hyperthyroidism, regular radioiodine therapy and avoidance of dietary iodine, against the priority to care for the developing foetus, with inevitable compromise. Additionally, epidemiological and cellular data support the role of oestrogen as a growth factor for benign and malignant thyrocytes, although communicating the magnitude of this risk to patients and caregivers, as well as the uncertain impact of any pregnancy on long-term prognosis, remains challenging. Evidence to support treatment decisions in this uncommon situation is presented in the context of a case of a pregnant teenager with known metastatic papillary thyroid cancer and recent radioiodine therapy.

          Learning points:
          • Pregnancy is associated with the growth of thyroid nodules due to stimulation from oestrogen receptors on thyrocytes and HCG cross-stimulation of the TSH receptor.

          • Thyroid cancer diagnosed during pregnancy has not been shown to be associated with increased rates of persistent or recurrent disease in most studies.

          • There is little evidence to guide the management of metastatic thyroid cancer in pregnancy, where both maternal and foetal wellbeing must be carefully balanced.

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          Most cited references7

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          Estrogen and its role in thyroid cancer.

          Proliferative thyroid diseases are more prevalent in females than in males. Upon the onset of puberty, the incidence of thyroid cancer increases in females only and declines again after menopause. Estrogen is a potent growth factor both for benign and malignant thyroid cells that may explain the sex difference in the prevalence of thyroid nodules and thyroid cancer. It exerts its growth-promoting effect through a classical genomic and a non-genomic pathway, mediated via a membrane-bound estrogen receptor. This receptor is linked to the tyrosine kinase signaling pathways MAPK and PI3K. In papillary thyroid carcinomas, these pathways may be activated either by a chromosomal rearrangement of the tyrosine receptor kinase TRKA, by RET/PTC genes, or by a BRAF mutation and, in addition, in females they may be stimulated by high levels of estrogen. Furthermore, estrogen is involved in the regulation of angiogenesis and metastasis that are critical for the outcome of thyroid cancer. In contrast to other carcinomas, however, detailed knowledge on this regulation is still missing for thyroid cancer. © 2014 Society for Endocrinology.
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            Timing and magnitude of increases in levothyroxine requirements during pregnancy in women with hypothyroidism.

            Hypothyroidism during pregnancy has been associated with impaired cognitive development and increased fetal mortality. During pregnancy, maternal thyroid hormone requirements increase. Although it is known that women with hypothyroidism should increase their levothyroxine dose during pregnancy, biochemical hypothyroidism occurs in many. In this prospective study we attempted to identify precisely the timing and amount of levothyroxine adjustment required during pregnancy. Women with hypothyroidism who were planning pregnancy were observed prospectively before and throughout their pregnancies. Thyroid function, human chorionic gonadotropin, and estradiol were measured before conception, approximately every two weeks during the first trimester, and monthly thereafter. The dose of levothyroxine was increased to maintain the thyrotropin concentration at preconception values throughout pregnancy. Twenty pregnancies occurred in 19 women and resulted in 17 full-term births. An increase in the levothyroxine dose was necessary during 17 pregnancies. The mean levothyroxine requirement increased 47 percent during the first half of pregnancy (median onset of increase, eight weeks of gestation) and plateaued by week 16. This increased dose was required until delivery. Levothyroxine requirements increase as early as the fifth week of gestation. Given the importance of maternal euthyroidism for normal fetal cognitive development, we propose that women with hypothyroidism increase their levothyroxine dose by approximately 30 percent as soon as pregnancy is confirmed. Thereafter, serum thyrotropin levels should be monitored and the levothyroxine dose adjusted accordingly. Copyright 2004 Massachusetts Medical Society
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              The effect of pregnancy on thyroid nodule formation.

              Epidemiology data have revealed a higher prevalence of nodular goiters in women than men in both iodine-sufficient and iodine-deficient areas. Increased prevalence of thyroid nodules has also been reported in women with higher gravidity. However, the association between pregnancy and thyroid nodule formation has never been studied. The aim of our study was to evaluate the incidence of thyroid nodules during pregnancy and determine whether pregnancy will induce thyroid nodule formation. Two hundred twenty-one healthy southern Chinese women in the first trimester of their pregnancy were studied prospectively. Thyroid ultrasonography, thyroid function tests, and urinary iodine excretion were measured at first, second, and third trimesters of pregnancy as well as 6 wk and 3 months postpartum. Thyroid nodules (>2 mm in any dimension on ultrasonography) were detected in 34 (15.3%) subjects at first trimester, with 12 (5.4%) subjects having more than one nodule. Eight subjects had clinically palpable nodules. Women with thyroid nodules were older (P < 0.01) and had higher gravidity (P < 0.02) than those women without thyroid nodules. The volume of the single/dominant nodules increased from 60 (14--344) mm(3), median (interquartile range) at first trimester to 65 (26-472) mm(3) at third trimester (P < 0.02). These nodules remained enlarged at 103 (25-461) mm(3) 6 wk postpartum (P < 0.005) and 73 (22-344) mm(3) at 3 months postpartum (P < 0.05). Patients with thyroid nodules had lower serum TSH values (P < 0.03) and higher Tg levels (P < 0.05) throughout pregnancy. Appearance of new nodules was detected in 25 (11.3%) women as pregnancy advanced so that by 3 months postpartum, the incidence of thyroid nodular disease was 24.4% (P < 0.02 vs. first trimester). Compared with those with no detectable nodules throughout pregnancy, subjects with new nodule formation had higher urinary iodine excretion from second trimester onward (P all < 0.05). However, no difference could be detected in their TSH and Tg levels throughout pregnancy. Fine-needle aspiration on nodules greater than 5 mm in any dimension after delivery (n = 21) confirmed the majority having histological features consistent with nodular hyperplasia. No thyroid malignancy was detected. In conclusion, pregnancy is associated with an increase in the size of preexisting thyroid nodules as well as new thyroid nodule formation. This may predispose to multinodular goiter in later life.

                Author and article information

                Endocrinol Diabetes Metab Case Rep
                Endocrinol Diabetes Metab Case Rep
                Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism Case Reports
                Bioscientifica Ltd (Bristol )
                02 December 2016
                : 2016
                : 16-0071
                [1 ]Departments of Endocrinology and Diabetes
                [2 ]Maternity and Gynaecology , John Hunter Hospital, Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia
                [3 ]Department of Nuclear Medicine & PET , Hunter New England Imaging, John Hunter and Calvary Mater Hospital, Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia
                [4 ]Schools of Medicine and Public Health
                [5 ]Health Sciences , University of Newcastle, Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia
                Author notes
                Correspondence should be addressed to C Rowe; Email: Christopher.Rowe@ 123456hnehealth.nsw.gov.au
                This is an Open Access article distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

                This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

                : 4 October 2016
                : 17 November 2016
                Insight into Disease Pathogenesis or Mechanism of Therapy


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