Differentiated pediatric thyroid cancer: correlates with adult disease, controversies in treatment

Semin Nucl Med. 2007 Sep;37(5):340-56. doi: 10.1053/j.semnuclmed.2007.05.001.


The biologic behavior of differentiated thyroid cancer can differ between adults and children, especially in those children younger than 10 years of age. Unlike adults, young children typically present with advanced disease at diagnosis. Despite this, children respond rapidly to therapy and have an excellent prognosis that is significantly better than that of their adult counterparts with advanced disease. In contradistinction to adults, children with thyroid cancer also have higher local and distant disease recurrences with progression-free survival of only 70% at 5 years, mandating life-long surveillance. Although thyroid cancer is the most common carcinoma in children, overall incidence is low, a factor that has prevented performance of a controlled, randomized, prospective study to determine the most efficacious treatment regimen in this age group. So, although extensively investigated, treatment of pediatric patients with differentiated thyroid cancer remains controversial. This article reviews the current controversies in the treatment of pediatric differentiated thyroid cancer, focusing on issues of optimal initial and subsequent therapy as well as that of long-term follow-up. Our approach to treatment is presented. In so doing, similarities and differences between adults and children with differentiated thyroid cancer as regards unique considerations in epidemiology, diagnosis, staging, treatment, therapy-related late effects, and disease surveillance are presented. The expanding use of and appropriate roles for thyrogen and fluorine-18-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography in disease evaluation and surveillance will be addressed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Pediatrics / trends*
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / trends*
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / therapy*