Testing & Diagnosis for Pediatric Thyroid Cancer

How is pediatric thyroid cancer diagnosed?

The first step in treating a child with thyroid cancer is forming an accurate and complete diagnosis. A physician may order a number of different tests to diagnose thyroid cancer and determine whether it has spread. In addition to a medical history and physical exam, these may include:

  • Blood tests to determine if the thyroid is working properly
  • Ultrasound, which is the best imaging technique to visualize a known or suspected thyroid mass. Ultrasound uses sound waves to assess the location and characteristics of nodules in the thyroid gland.  Because ultrasound uses only sound waves, it does not expose the patient to any harmful radiation.
  • Fine needle aspiration (sometimes called a biopsy), which uses a small needle to take a sample of the primary tumor and/or lymph nodes to gather information about whether a thyroid mass may be cancer
  • Surgery, which provides a definitive diagnosis of whether a thyroid mass is cancer and helps define its characteristics to guide treatment
  • Computerized tomography (CT or CAT) scan, which involves taking detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles and fat
  • Genetic testing, which is used in some cases when thyroid cancer may occur as part of a genetic condition.

There may be other diagnostic tests that your doctor will discuss with you depending on your child’s individual situation. After we complete all necessary testing, our experts will meet together to review and discuss what they have learned about your child's condition. Then we will meet with you and your family to discuss the results and outline the best possible treatment options.