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Thyroid nodules are lumps of abnormal cells that grow in the thyroid gland. Most thyroid nodules are benign. This means they are not cancerous.
Thyroid cancer, also called thyroid carcinoma, is rare in children and teens. About 2% of thyroid cancers in the U.S. occur in people under age 20. About 25% of thyroid nodules found in children and teens are cancerous (malignant).
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ located at the base of the throat in the front of the neck. It has 2 lobes: 1 on the right and 1 on the left.
The thyroid gland is part of the body's endocrine system. It makes the hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). These hormones control body functions such as temperature, appetite, growth, and energy level. A hormone made in the brain called thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) controls T3 and T4 blood levels.
The thyroid makes T3 and T4 hormones using iodine from the diet and a thyroid protein called thyroglobulin (Tg). Both healthy and cancerous thyroid tissue make this thyroglobulin protein. Doctors can monitor the level of thyroglobulin in the blood to find any new thyroid cancer after treatment.
Thyroid cancers may not show any symptoms. The doctor may find this cancer during a routine physical exam. Usually, a healthy thyroid is difficult to feel through the skin. Thyroid cancer may appear as a lump in the thyroid gland or swelling in the neck. Rarely, your child might have:
Risk factors for childhood thyroid cancer include:
Depending on the type of thyroid cancer, a doctor may diagnose it using:
Several types of thyroid cancer occur in children:
Surgery to remove the thyroid gland is known as a thyroidectomy and is the standard treatment. Children with thyroid cancer have a 95% chance of survival.
Treatments for DTC are similar and may include:
MTC starts in a group of thyroid cells that produce hormones. This can affect body functions. Doctors treat this cancer differently than other thyroid cancers. Patients may receive surgery and targeted therapies.
Reviewed: December 2022