Study: Aggressive treatment is not always warranted for thyroid cancer in kids

A pair of endocrinologists from universities in Texas and Virginia recently published a review of pediatric thyroid cancer treatment in which they recommended a conservative approach.

Their paper, which appeared in the journal Expert Review of Endocrinology and Metabolism, emphasized that only 2 percent of children diagnosed with differentiated thyroid cancer ultimately succumb to the disease as adults.

Authors Gary Francis and Steven Waguespack wrote that aggressive treatments for thyroid tumors were formerly used with little discrimination. These included thyroidectomies and exposure to radioactive iodine.

While acknowledging that these courses of treatment often eliminated the carcinoma, the duo added that these therapies often cause serious side effects of their own, which may or may not invalidate their use in some case.

Differentiated thyroid cancer is rarely found in youth under the age of 18. Fewer than 2 percent of cases of the disease are diagnosed among children and adolescents, according to a study published in the Journal of Surgical Research.

Francis and Waguespack said that while an estimated 5 to 10 percent of these diagnoses progress to metastasized thyroid cancer, most of these metastases occur after significant tumor growth in the thyroid and lymph nodes first, which may be relatively easy for a physician to spot.

In essence, the researchers said that thyroid cancer is rarely an immediate danger to a child's life. According to the endocrinologists, the 10-year survival rate for children is virtually 100 percent.

On the other hand, routinely prescribing radioactive iodine therapy may contribute to a recurrence of the disease. The treatment method is effective but may exacerbate the tendency in children of thyroid cancer to reappear later in life.

Unlike in adulthood, thyroid carcinoma is less lethal but more likely to recur when diagnosed in childhood.

In conclusion, the study's authors recommended that doctors cautiously consider radical treatment of pediatric thyroid cancer when dealing with children. They suggested an individualistic approach.

Two-thirds of all cases of thyroid cancer are diagnosed in adults between the ages of 20 and 55, according to the American Cancer Society.
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