Childhood Thyroid Carcinoma

What Is Childhood Thyroid Carcinoma?

Thyroid carcinoma (also known as thyroid cancer) is a rare cancer in children. It forms in the thyroid gland, the butterfly-shaped gland at the neck base that produces hormones that play a critical role in a child's growth and metabolism. Some thyroid cancer cases are due to high exposure to radiation or rare familial conditions, but most thyroid cancers occur in children with no known risk factors.

The two most common types of thyroid carcinoma in children are:

  • Differentiated thyroid carcinoma includes papillary thyroid carcinoma and follicular thyroid carcinoma. The papillary form is the most common. It develops in the cells that produce thyroid hormone.
  • Medullary thyroid carcinoma is very rare and typically affects adults. However, there is a familial form in which children may develop the tumor very early in life. It occurs in cells that do not produce thyroid hormone.

At diagnosis, about 70 percent of children have a disease that has spread to the lymph nodes. Of these, about 10 percent have a disease that has spread to more distant sites, such as the lungs.

Our team at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center collaborates with the experts at the Boston Children's Thyroid Center to treat children with thyroid carcinoma.

Learn more about how we diagnose and treat childhood thyroid carcinoma.