Thyroid Cancer in Children and Teenagers

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Although not as common as leukemias and brain tumors, thyroid cancer is the third most common solid tumor cancer type in children (Solid tumor cancers are those that produce a tumor mass, rather than leukemias that produce cancerous cells that circulate in the bloodstream). Thyroid cancer is the most common cancer of hormone glands (endocrine) in children. Still, thyroid cancer represents only 1% to 1.5% of all pediatric cancers. Of all cases of thyroid cancer, about 5% occur in children and teens.

As in adults, a thyroid nodule (localized lump or mass) is a common symptom of thyroid cancer. Thyroid nodules that develop in children and adolescents are even more likely to be cancerous than thyroid masses in adults. In adults with thyroid nodules, only about 5% turn out to be cancer. In children and teens, that percentage increases to over 26%. All children or teens who develop a lump in the thyroid or neck should be evaluated by a physician in order to ensure early diagnosis and treatment if cancer is indeed present. The prognosis is usually excellent for children who have cancer that has not spread outside of the thyroid gland.

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