What is the pathology of papillary carcinoma in patients with thyroid cancer?

Updated: May 14, 2020
  • Author: Pramod K Sharma, MD; Chief Editor: Arlen D Meyers, MD, MBA  more...
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On gross pathologic examination, papillary carcinomas are whitish invasive neoplasms with ill-defined margins. Under microscopy, the tumors are unencapsulated neoplasms that characteristically grow with papillae consisting of neoplastic epithelium overlying fibrovascular stalks. Very differentiated tumors can have a complex arborizing pattern. Nuclei have an empty ground-glass appearance with characteristic nuclear grooves and pseudoinclusions. Mitoses are rare.

Another histologic feature is the presence of psammoma bodies, which occur in 50% of papillary carcinomas. Psammoma bodies are calcific concretions that have a circular laminated appearance. They are found in the stroma of the tumor. In addition, many papillary carcinomas contain areas that show a follicular growth pattern. However, when the nuclear features in follicular areas are the same as those in papillary areas, the tumor behaves like a classic papillary carcinoma and should be designated as such. Papillary carcinoma may be multicentric, with foci present in both the ipsilateral and contralateral lobes.

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