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Background: Recurrent papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) beyond the first two decades of definitive treatment (i.e. total thyroidectomy and radioactive iodine ablation) is a rare occurrence. Case presentation: We present a case of a 71-year old Caucasian female with a distant history of PTC treated with total thyroidectomy and radioactive iodine ablation who experienced recurrence of her disease 43 years following initial diagnosis and definitive treatment. She presented with palpable left-sided neck mass and subsequently underwent a level II, III, neck dissection and adjuvant iodine ablation. This case presents the latest recurrence in papillary thyroid cancer documented to date in the literature. Conclusion: This case exemplifies the need for the head and neck surgeon, radiation oncologist, general practitioner and radiologist to consider new lateral neck mass as late-presenting recurrence of PTC until proven otherwise regardless of low recurrence rates beyond two decades from treatment and low prognostic risk scores.