Pediatric Thyroid Program Frequently Asked Questions :: Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, Ohio

Thyroid Nodule/ Thyroid Cancer FAQs

What is a thyroid nodule? 
A thyroid nodule is a bump in the thyroid gland that is found either by examination or by ultrasound imaging. 

Is there more than one type of thyroid nodule?
Thyroid nodules are usually harmless, but in a minority of patients they can be caused by cancer. There are also some thyroid nodules that cause overproduction of thyroid hormone, and these cause symptoms of over-active thyroid and are usually benign.

How are thyroid nodules diagnosed? 
Thyroid nodules are found either by examination of the neck or by ultrasound imaging.  Diagnosis of cancer is made after obtaining tissue by needle biopsy or surgery.

What are the risk factors for pediatric thyroid cancer? 
Exposure to head and neck radiation is known to increase the risk for thyroid cancer.  Thyroid cancer is also associated with a number of rare genetic syndromes.  It is believed that changes in different genes that regulate or control cell growth are responsible for the cancerous changes.

What are the symptoms of thyroid nodules? 
Symptoms of thyroid nodules can vary. It is possible to experience an enlarging nodule or bump in the neck, difficulty swallowing, pain with swallowing, voice changes, and in some cases no symptoms at all.  If the nodule is producing thyroid hormone, it may cause sleeping difficulty, weight loss, fast heartbeat, nervousness and diarrhea.

How are thyroid nodules treated? 
If the thyroid nodule is felt to be benign it will be followed by observation and repeat ultrasound imaging.  If the nodule is enlarged and causing symptoms it can also be removed surgically. Your doctor will determine if the nodule needs to be removed.

How is thyroid cancer treated? 
If the nodule is determined to be cancer or is very concerning for cancer the entire thyroid gland will be removed.  If thyroid cancer has spread to nodes or beyond, then radioactive iodine therapy is indicated.

What is the outlook for patients with thyroid cancer? 
Overall the prognosis for thyroid cancer is excellent.  Even in the presence of metastatic disease, 30 year survival rates are 90-99% for children with differentiated thyroid cancer.  Recurrence of disease can occur years later and therefore the condition requires long-term surveillance with lab tests, ultrasounds and physical examination. 

Pediatric Thyroid Program Referrals

Nationwide Children's Hospital
700 Children's Drive Columbus, Ohio 43205 614.722.2000