Purpose: Most thyroid cancer are incidentally diagnosed. However, little is known on the different modalities of incidental diagnosis in adult versus older patients. Methods: We retrospectively analyzed data from 440 patients consecutively diagnosed with differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC) in a single institution. Modalities of diagnosis were categorized as follows: (A) clinically diagnosed, nonincidental cases; (B) incidental during carotid power-duplex (CPD); (C) incidental during neck imaging other than carotid power-duplex; (D) incidental during imaging workup of thyroid dysfunction or at histological examination after thyroidectomy for benign lesions. Demographics, histology and follow-up were compared between adult (<65 years) and older (≥65 years) patients according to the different modalities of diagnosis. Results: A total of 363 and 67 cases were recorded in adult and older patients, respectively with incidental proportions of 79% and 85%, respectively. A P < 0.001 significant difference in the modality of diagnosis was found between adult and older subjects, the latter presenting with a higher prevalence of Group B. In the nonincidental group, papillary histotype, larger size, and extrathyroidal invasion were more frequently observed in older subjects. Disease-free survival was comparable between adult and older subjects in the incidental cases, whereas it was reduced, though not significantly, in older subjects. Conclusion: Incidental cases of DTC are more frequently diagnosed in the old subjects and are mainly due to CPD. Disease-free survival is comparable between adult and older subjects in both incidental and nonincidental cases, although it may be slightly reduced in nonincidentally diagnosed older patients.
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