Treatments for Pediatric Thyroid Cancer

Your child's care will vary depending on the specific type of thyroid cancer present. Components of thyroid cancer treatment may include:

•    Surgery is the first and most important treatment for thyroid cancer, allowing doctors to form a complete diagnosis of the tumor type and obtain information on the stage of the disease. Surgeons will remove as much of the tumor as possible. This usually includes removing the entire thyroid gland, and if necessary any lymph nodes in the neck that may contain thyroid cancer. Lifelong treatment with thyroid medication is needed after total thyroidectomy.
Thyroid surgery is generally safe but rarely can have serious complications. For this reason, it is important that this procedure be performed by an experienced thyroid surgeon. Our thyroid surgeons have extensive experience in pediatric thyroid surgery and work closely with the rest of the Thyroid Center team to provide seamless, coordinated care before, during, and after surgery.
•    Radioactive iodine therapy – to destroy any remaining cancer cells after surgery.
•    Hormone therapy – to replace normal hormones and slow the growth of cancer cells.
•    Molecular therapies – for patients with advanced differentiated thyroid carcinoma that does not respond to surgery and radioactive iodine therapy, and for patients with advanced medullary thyroid carcinoma.

What is the long-term outlook for children with thyroid cancer?

The prognosis for children with thyroid carcinoma is excellent, with a survival rate of greater than 95 percent. Outcomes are best with early detection and treatment.

Children treated for thyroid cancer seem to have higher recurrence rates than adults, especially children under age 10 years, boys, and those with tumors that have spread to the lymph nodes or other sites. Postoperative treatment with radioactive iodine or hormone therapy may help reduce the risk of recurrent disease. Even if disease does recur, outcomes for children with recurrent disease are excellent.

You and your child will need to monitor the late effects of treatment and continue to consult with your medical team after your child's cancer is in remission. This will likely include visiting the Thyroid Center every year to screen for recurrence and to manage possible disease complications. The Thyroid Center provides comprehensive follow-up evaluations from their cancer care team, which includes endocrinologists, surgeons, radiologists, oncologists, genetic counselors, social workers, and psychologists.