Background The impact of recent medical advances on disease presentation, extent of operation, and disease-specific survival for patients with medullary thyroid cancer is unclear. Methods We used the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results registry to compare trends over 3 time periods, 1983–1992, 1993–2002, and 2003–2012. Results There were 2,940 patients diagnosed with medullary thyroid cancer between 1983 and 2012. The incidence of medullary thyroid cancer increased during this time period from 0.14 to 0.21 per 100,000 population, and mean age at diagnosis increased from 49.8 to 53.8 (P < .001). The proportion of tumors ≤1 cm also increased from 11.4% in 1983–1992, 19.6% in 1993–2002, to 25.1% in 2003–2012 (P < .001), but stage at diagnosis remained constant (P = .57). In addition, the proportion of patients undergoing a total thyroidectomy and lymph node dissection increased from 58.2% to 76.5% during the study period (P < .001). In the most recent time interval, 5-year, disease-specific survival improved from 86% to 89% in all patients (P < .001) but especially for patients with regional (82% to 91%, P = .003) and distant (40% to 51%, P = .02) disease. Conclusion These data demonstrate that the extent of operation is increasing for patients with medullary thyroid cancer. Disease-specific survival is also improving, primarily in patients with regional and distant disease.
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