The signs, symptoms, and diagnosis of thyroid nodules and cancer in children and young adults is almost identical to that of older individuals. This means there are few if any symptoms and a workup should consist of a dedicated thyroid ultrasound and fine needle biopsy.
Quick facts about thyroid nodules and cancer in younger patients
- Although more prevalent in older adults, thyroid nodules are not uncommon in younger individuals.
- Children and adolescents tend to present with more advanced disease (though have the best overall survival which approaches 98%-100%).
- Thyroid cancer is the most common endocrine cancer in the pediatric population, representing about 1% of all pediatric malignancies in pre-pubertal children to 7% in adolescents, with the incidence increasing by 1.1% per year.
Luckily, thyroid cancer is very treatable and survivors live long, healthy, productive lives.
Thyroid cancer is the #1 cancer in young adult women ages 15-30.
Thyroid cancer is the #2 cancer for women in there 30's and 40's.
Thyroid cancer is the 5th most common cancer in young men ages 15-40.
Like adults, the only risk factor for both thyroid nodules and cancer is having received radiation earlier in life, most commonly as treatment for other cancers. A specific, rare type of thyroid cancer, medullary thyroid cancer, when genetically inherited, is a hallmark cancer of MEN2.
Treatment is also fairly similar in children and young adults, but with a few nuances, which is why it is important to be in the care of specialist of both thyroid nodules/cancer and children/young adults.
Generally, an adult endocrine surgeon (since they are the highest volume) with a special interest in pediatric and young adult patients is the best person to treat this disease.