Which histologic findings are characteristic of papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC)?

Updated: Jun 18, 2020
  • Author: Ponnandai S Somasundar, MD, MPH, FACS; Chief Editor: Neetu Radhakrishnan, MD  more...
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Papillary thyroid carcinoma usually appears as a grossly firm mass that is irregular and not encapsulated. Microscopically, it is multifocal, and a net invasion of the lymphatics may be demonstrated. Complete or partial papillary architecture with some follicles is present. Otherwise, in some patients, the tumor may lack any papillary pattern.

The thyrocytes are large and show an abnormal nucleus and cytoplasm with several mitoses. In some cases, the thyrocytes may have so-called "Orphan Annie eyes," that is, large round cells with a dense nucleus and clear cytoplasm. Another typical feature of this cancer is the presence of psammoma bodies, probably the remnants of dead papillae.

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