Thyroid cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the thyroid gland, a small butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the neck. This gland plays a crucial role in controlling the body’s metabolism, growth, and energy levels through the hormones it produces.

Now, when it comes to thyroid cancer in teenagers and young adults, the most common type is usually papillary thyroid cancer. It’s noteworthy to mention that thyroid cancer is relatively rare among young people. However, when it does occur, teenagers and young adults generally have a good prognosis because their bodies are typically better equipped to fight the disease compared to older adults.

Thyroid cancer in teens

The symptoms of thyroid cancer in teenagers and young adults are similar to those in adults and may include a lump or swelling in the front of the neck, pain in the neck, persistent cough, trouble swallowing or breathing, or changes in voice.

The causes of thyroid cancer are not completely understood and it’s not known why some young people develop this disease. However, it’s believed that exposure to radiation, a family history of thyroid disease, or certain genetic conditions can increase the risk.

As with any type of cancer, early detection is key. If your teenager or young adult reports any of the above symptoms, consult with a healthcare professional immediately who can evaluate the symptoms and order appropriate tests. Therapies include surgical removal of the thyroid, radioactive iodine treatment, and in some cases, chemotherapy or external radiation therapy.

Causes of Thyroid cancer: Teenagers and young adults

Thyroid cancer can affect individuals at any age, including teenagers and young adults. However, the exact cause of thyroid cancer is not clearly known. It appears to be caused due to mutations in the DNA which results in the growth and division of cells in an abnormal way, and these cells form a tumor. Here are a few factors that increase the risk of developing thyroid cancer:

1. Gender and Age: Women are more likely to develop thyroid cancer compared to men. Though it can occur at any age, it’s more common in individuals who are in their 30s and 40s.

2. Radiation exposure: People who have had radiation therapies to the head or neck, especially during childhood, have an increased risk of developing thyroid cancer.

3. Family history: If a close family member had thyroid cancer or a history of goiters, the risk of getting thyroid cancer increases.

4. Genetic syndromes: Certain genetic syndromes, such as familial medullary thyroid cancer, multiple endocrine neoplasia, and others, can increase the risk of thyroid cancer.

5. Diet low in iodine: In certain areas of the world where diets are low in iodine, the risk of certain types of thyroid cancer is higher.

6. Hormonal imbalances: Conditions that cause hormonal imbalances, such as polycystic ovary syndrome or Type 2 diabetes, can put a person at a higher risk.

As with any cancer, early detection is important. Visiting a healthcare professional regularly and reporting any noticeable changes or symptoms can lead to earlier diagnosis and potentially better outcomes.

Risk Factors of Thyroid cancer: Teenagers and young adults

Thyroid cancer is relatively infrequent among teenagers and young adults compared to other age groups, but it’s not impossible. It’s important to note that thyroid cancer may often present no symptoms or be asymptomatic; however, when symptoms do occur, they could involve a lump that can be felt through the skin on your neck, changes to your voice, difficulty swallowing, throat pain, and neck and throat swelling.

There are several risk factors associated with developing thyroid cancer. While some of these risk factors are true for all age groups, some specific factors might influence its development in teenagers and young adults:

1. Gender: Female teenagers and young adults are more likely to develop thyroid cancer than males of the same age group.

2. Radiation exposure: Exposure to radiation, especially during childhood, can increase the risk of thyroid cancer. This could come from radiation therapy for a different type of cancer or from environmental radiation.

3. Family history and Genetics: People who have a family history of thyroid cancer are at an increased risk. Certain genetic syndromes can also increase the risk, such as familial medullary thyroid cancer, multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2b, and familial adenomatous polyposis.

4. Iodine deficiency: Though more prevalent in developing countries, a diet deficient in iodine can increase the risk of thyroid disease and consequently, thyroid cancer.

5. Chronic thyroid inflammation: Conditions such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, in which the immune system attacks the thyroid gland, can increase the risk of developing thyroid cancer.

While the presence of these risk factors may increase the likelihood of developing thyroid cancer, it does not guarantee a diagnosis. Not everyone with these risk factors will get the disease, and many people who get the disease may not have any of these risk factors. Regular health checks and prompt attention to changes in health is always advisable.

Signs and Symptoms of Thyroid cancer: Teenagers and young adults

Thyroid cancer often doesn’t show any signs or symptoms in its early stages. But as it progresses, the following symptoms may start to occur. It’s important to note that these symptoms can occur in teenagers and young adults:

1. A lump or swelling in the neck: This is the most common symptom, it often can be felt through the skin.

2. Pain in the front of the neck, possibly stretching towards the ears.

3. Difficulty swallowing: As the tumor on the thyroid grows, it can press on the esophagus, which can interfere with swallowing.

4. Trouble breathing: Similar to difficulty swallowing, a growing tumor can also press on the windpipe (trachea) and interfere with breathing.

5. Changes or hoarseness in voice: This symptom occurs when the cancer affects the nerve that controls your vocal cords.

6. Persistent cough that isn’t related to a cold.

Again, it’s important to keep in mind that these symptoms do not necessarily indicate thyroid cancer; they could be due to a less serious condition like an enlarged thyroid or a throat infection. Nonetheless, if you notice any of these symptoms, especially a neck lump, it’s wise to see a healthcare provider for an evaluation.

Diagnosis Thyroid cancer: Teenagers and young adults

Thyroid cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the cells of the thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of your neck, just below your Adam’s apple. The thyroid produces hormones that regulate your heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and weight.

In teenagers and young adults, thyroid cancer is often associated with a type of thyroid cancer known as papillary thyroid cancer – the most common type of thyroid cancer. It tends to grow slowly but can often spread to lymph nodes in the neck. Even with spread to lymph nodes, it often can still be treated successfully.

Symptoms of thyroid cancer can include a lump in the neck, trouble swallowing, throat or neck pain, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, persistent cough, and changes in voice.

Risk factors can include exposure to radiation, a family history of goiter (an enlarged thyroid), and certain genetic syndromes that increase the risk of thyroid cancer. Women, and people with a family history of thyroid disease or type 2 diabetes, are also at a higher risk.

It’s important to note that thyroid cancer is quite rare, especially in children and teenagers. When it does occur in these age groups, however, it tends to be detected at a later stage because early stage thyroid cancer often has few or no symptoms.

For diagnosis, doctors typically use a combination of physical examination, blood tests, imaging tests, and a biopsy where a small sample of thyroid tissue is taken for laboratory testing.

Despite being a cancer diagnosis, the survival rate for most forms of thyroid cancer is very high, especially when detected early and treated effectively. As such, regular check-ups and medical screenings are important.

Remember, it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional if you are concerned about thyroid cancer. They will provide accurate medical advice based on the individual’s personal health history.

Treatment of Thyroid cancer: Teenagers and young adults

The treatment of thyroid cancer in teenagers and young adults primarily involves a combination of surgery, radioactive iodine therapy, hormone therapy, and sometimes, targeted therapy or chemotherapy. The specific approach might vary depending on the type and stage of the thyroid cancer, overall health of the patient, their age, and their personal preference. Here’s a general overview:

1. Surgery: This is often the first-line treatment for thyroid cancer and involves removing part or all of the thyroid gland. This procedure is called a thyroidectomy. In some cases, nearby lymph nodes may also be removed if cancer cells have spread.

2. Radioactive iodine treatment: After surgery, radioactive iodine treatment may be used. This therapy is given as a liquid or pill, and it helps to kill any remaining thyroid tissue or cancer cells that were not removed during surgery. The iodine is absorbed by thyroid cells, so it specifically targets those areas.

3. Hormone therapy: After the thyroid gland is removed, the body can no longer produce the thyroid hormone, which is important for regulating body’s metabolism. Patients will need to take hormone therapy, typically levothyroxine, to replace this missing hormone and maintain normal body functions.

4. Targeted therapy: For advanced thyroid cancers or cancers that don’t respond to other treatments, targeted therapies may be used. These medicines specifically target the changes in cells that cause them to become cancerous.

5. Chemotherapy: It is rarely used in treating thyroid cancer but may be used in certain situations when other treatments are not effective.

6. Regular Follow-ups: After treatment, regular follow-ups including blood test, neck ultrasound, and whole body iodine scan (in case if required) are essential for checking any signs of recurrence.

7. Supportive Care: Emotional support and supportive care help improve quality of life and manage symptoms & side effects.

Everyone’s experience with thyroid cancer is different. Therefore, treatment must be individualized depending on each patient’s specific circumstances. Regular communication and follow-ups with the healthcare team are critical to ensure best possible outcomes. The prognosis for thyroid cancer in young adults and teenagers is generally good, particularly when the cancer is detected early.

Medications commonly used for Thyroid cancer: Teenagers and young adults

Thyroid cancer is usually treated primarily with surgical intervention, followed by radioactive iodine therapy if needed. However, there are a few medications, and their use is typically dependent on the type and stage of the thyroid cancer. Here are some medications commonly employed:

1. Levothyroxine: This is a synthetic version of the thyroid hormone thyroxine (T4). It’s used after thyroid surgery to replace the thyroid hormones that the body can no longer produce and to suppress the production of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) by the pituitary gland. It helps in reducing the possibility of recurrent thyroid cancer.

2. Liothyronine: This is a synthetic form of the triiodothyronine (T3) hormone primarily used if there is a need for rapid temporary thyroid hormone replacement, for example, in preparation for radioactive iodine scan or treatment.

3. Radioactive Iodine (RAI) Therapy: In some cases of larger or more aggressive cancers, or when the cancer has spread to lymph nodes or other areas of the body, teenagers or young adults may be treated with radioactive iodine after surgery. RAI therapy is given as a pill or liquid and it helps destroy any thyroid tissue not removed during surgery or to kill any cancer cells that may have spread beyond the thyroid.

4. Targeted Therapy Drugs: For more advanced thyroid cancers, or if the cancer returns after treatment, certain targeted therapy drugs like sorafenib (Nexavar) or lenvatinib (Lenvima) may be used to attack specific parts of cancer cells, limiting the harm done to the rest of the body.

5. Immunomodulatory Drugs: For example, Pembrolizumab (Keytruda) has shown promise in treating anaplastic thyroid cancer, a rare form of thyroid cancer.

Always consult your healthcare provider or an oncologist for what treatment approach is most suitable. All these medications should be taken under appropriate medical supervision as they may have potential side effects.

Prevention of Thyroid cancer: Teenagers and young adults

Preventing thyroid cancer at a young age is similar to how it’s prevented in adults. While it’s impossible to completely prevent the disease, some factors can reduce the risk.

1. Regular check-ups: Regular thyroid examinations can help in early detection of any abnormality in the gland. These routine checks generally involve the doctor physically examining the neck for lumps or abnormalities.

Thyroid cancer in teens

2. Healthy diet: Maintaining a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables is generally recommended.

3. Low iodine consumption: Overconsumption of iodine should be avoided as it can provoke certain types of thyroid cancers. However, iodine is necessary for thyroid function, so a balance must strike.

4. Minimize exposure to radiation: Avoid unnecessary exposure to radiation. Young people, especially, should avoid excessive radiation exposure, including diagnostic medical radiation, like CT scans, unless absolutely necessary.

5. Regular Exercise: Regular physical activity can help maintain a healthy body weight which reduces the risk of various types of cancer, including thyroid cancer.

6. Family history: If there’s a history of thyroid cancer in the family, it’s wise to get genetic counseling. This can help understand your risk better and possibly lead to early detection.

It’s important to note that even with these preventive measures, it’s still possible to get thyroid cancer. If a young person experiences symptoms like swelling or lumps in the neck, difficulty swallowing, or persistent hoarseness or pain, they should consult a doctor immediately.

FAQ’s about Thyroid cancer: Teenagers and young adults

1. What is thyroid cancer?
Thyroid cancer starts in the thyroid gland which is located at the front of the neck. It’s more common in women than in men and usually affects people aged 35 to 70, but it can occur at any age including in teenagers and young adults.

2. What types of thyroid cancer affect teenagers and young adults?
The most common types are papillary thyroid cancer, follicular thyroid cancer, medullary thyroid and anaplastic thyroid cancer. However, in teenagers and young adults, papillary is the most common type.

3. What are some causes and risk factors for thyroid cancer in young people?
While the exact cause is unknown, exposure to radiation, particularly during childhood, is a known risk factor. Family history, certain genetic conditions or syndromes may increase the risk too.

4. What are the symptoms of thyroid cancer?
Thyroid cancer often doesn’t cause any symptoms in the early stages. However, as the disease progresses symptoms may include a lump in the neck, difficulty swallowing, neck and throat pain, swollen lymph nodes, changes to the voice such as hoarseness, or persistent cough.

5. How is thyroid cancer diagnosed in young people?
A diagnosis may involve a physical examination, a blood test, an ultrasound of the neck or a biopsy of suspicious nodules.

6. What are the possible treatments for thyroid cancer?
Treatment for thyroid cancer may include surgery, radioactive iodine treatment, thyroid hormone therapy, external radiotherapy, chemotherapy or targeted therapies. The best approach often depends on the type and stage of the cancer, and the patient’s general health.

7. What is the outlook for young people with thyroid cancer?
Prognosis is generally good, especially for younger people. The 5-year survival rate for individuals under 20 is near 100% for both papillary and follicular thyroid cancers.

8. Can thyroid cancer in young people be prevented?
Since the cause of thyroid cancer is not known, it’s hard to prevent. But avoiding unnecessary exposure to radiation can help to reduce the risk.

9. What follow-up care is required?
Regular check-ups are necessary after treatment to monitor any signs of the disease returning. This may include physical exams, blood tests and occasionally imaging tests.

10. How can young people cope with life after thyroid cancer?
For young people who’ve had thyroid cancer, ongoing medical care and regular check-ups are important. Coping with life after cancer treatment includes managing physical health, mental health, and dealing with any long-term side effects of treatment.

Remember that all these answers apply in general terms, and the right course of treatment or the occurrence of symptoms may not be the same in all individuals. An expert medical opinion is the best source of information.

Useful links

Thyroid cancer in teenagers and young adults is rare but can occur. Here are a few resources from medical journals and healthcare organizations that are specifically about thyroid cancer in this age group:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29528191/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23486378/

Please ensure to consult with healthcare professionals for advice tailored to a person’s individual health circumstances. These sources are intended to provide information on the general topic, and may not be up-to-date or comprehensive.

Complications of Thyroid cancer: Teenagers and young adults

Thyroid cancer in teenagers and young adults often presents its own unique complications, including:

1. Persistence and Recurrence: Despite typically responding well to initial treatment, thyroid cancer among teenagers and young adults often tends to recur. This requires repeated treatments, monitoring, and sometimes additional surgeries, which can have its own set of complications.

2. Treatment Side Effects: The typical treatment for thyroid cancer is removal of the thyroid through surgery. This leaves the young adult or teenager dependent on thyroid hormone replacement therapy for life. There might be complications associated with the surgery like issues affecting the parathyroid glands or vocal cords.

3. Psychological Impact: Receiving a cancer diagnosis, undergoing treatment, and living in fear of recurrence can lead to substantial psychological distress. Anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can occur.

4. Long-Term Health Issues: Surviving thyroid cancer might also put a teenager or young adult at greater risk for additional health problems later in life. These can include heart disease and secondary cancers, particularly if radioactive iodine treatment is used.

5. Impact on Growth and Development: Thyroid hormones play an important role in the growth and development, particularly during adolescence. Hence, teenagers with thyroid cancer may face growth delays or issues based on the timing and extent of their treatment.

6. School and Social Disruptions: Extended periods of hospitalization and recovery, as well as coping with the side effects of treatment can disrupt schooling and social interactions, with potential impacts on developing relationships and maintaining adequate academic progress.

7. Fertility Concerns: Although rare, certain treatment modalities might affect the fertility of the young patient in the long run.

8. Genetic Implications: If a teenager or young adult has thyroid cancer, there may be a genetic component to the disease. This may mean a risk for siblings or for the person’s future children; ongoing genetic counseling and testing might be required. Each of these complications can vary in severity and impact, making individualized treatment and follow-up extremely important.

Home remedies of Thyroid cancer: Teenagers and young adults

It’s important to remember that when it comes to serious conditions like thyroid cancer, professional medical advice and treatment should always be sought. Home remedies cannot substitute for professional cancer treatment. However, lifestyle adjustments and complementary therapies can help alleviate some symptoms and side effects of treatment, aid healing, and improve overall health.

Here are some practices that may help you:

1. Proper Nutrition: Maintain a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Some foods, particularly those high in iodine, may need to be restricted depending on the type and phase of your thyroid treatment. Consult with a dietician or doctor for personalized advice.

2. Physical Activity: Regular gentle exercise can help improve mood and combat fatigue. It’s necessary to discuss with your doctor what type and amount of physical activity is right for you.

3. Good Sleep: Try to maintain good sleep hygiene, aiming for 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. This helps your body recover and maintain proper functionality.

4. Stress Management: Techniques such as yoga, meditation, tai chi, and deep breathing exercises can help control stress and anxiety.

5. Regular Follow-Ups: Regular appointments with your physician are crucial to monitor your health and adjust treatment when needed.

6. Hydration: Staying hydrated will help to flush out toxins from your body and minimize side effects of any medication.

Again, it’s important to discuss all these strategies with your healthcare provider to make sure they’re tailored to your specific needs. Do not use any supplements or alternative therapies without discussing them with your doctor first, as they may interfere with thyroid cancer treatments.

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Thyroid Disease,

Last Update: January 13, 2024