Symptoms and Signs of Thyroid Tumors in Children

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 4/7/2022

Doctor's Notes on Thyroid Tumors in Children

Thyroid tumors are abnormal growths of thyroid cells. They are more common in girls and children aged 15-19 years. They may be benign adenomas or carcinomas (cancer). Signs and symptoms of thyroid tumors in children may include

  • a lump in the neck or a lump near the collarbone that does not hurt,
  • trouble breathing and/or swallowing, and
  • hoarseness or a change in voice.

 Hyperthyroidism (irregular heartbeats, shakiness, weight loss, sweating, trouble sleeping, and frequent bowel movements) may occur if a thyroid tumor makes and secretes excessive thyroid hormone. Adenomas may grow very large; some may become malignant.

The causes of thyroid tumors in children are unclear. However, radiation of the thyroid and several genetic syndromes (for example, multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2A syndrome and Werner syndrome) are considered risk factors for development of thyroid tumors in children.

What Are the Treatments for Thyroid Tumors in Children?

Like thyroid cancers in adults, the major treatment is surgery to remove all of the tumor. Children with thyroid cancer have surgery options that may include the following:

  • Total or near-total thyroidectomy: Total means all thyroid tissue removed while near-total means a rim of thyroid tissue is left around the parathyroid glands.
  • Lymph node removal: optional surgery to determine cancer spread

Other treatments that may done after surgery include the following:

  • Radioactive iodine: destroys remnants of thyroid tissues and cancer cells
  • Radiation therapy: X-ray beam kills cancer cells
  • Chemotherapy: kills cancer cells
  • Targeted drug therapy: drugs designed to attack specific thyroid cancer cells
  • Thyroid replacement therapy: may need lifelong thyroid hormone replacement medication

Your cancer doctors can help decide the best treatments for your thyroid condition and suggest ways to get supportive care.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.