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Thyroid tumor

Every year, approximately 10-15 children in the Netherlands are diagnosed with a malignant thyroid tumor. The tumor occurs in children of all ages. There are two types of thyroid tumors: differentiated thyroid tumors and medullary thyroid tumors. The latter occur very rarely.

Differentiated thyroid tumors develop in the thyroid cells that produce the thyroid hormone. Medullary thyroid cancer develops in the C cells in the thyroid gland. These cells are located within the follicles in the thyroid gland and do not produce the thyroid hormone.


Thyroid tumors first present vague symptoms, such as fatigue and listlessness. Many children are boisterous and fidgety and find it difficult to sit still, which is quickly attributed to ADHD with late diagnosis as a result. Sometimes a hard lump develops, which can be tender or even painful and can grow quickly. But if the lump is small or situated behind the thyroid, you won't notice that anything is wrong.

How is a thyroid tumor diagnosed?

Blood tests are taken and an ultrasound and sometimes a scan is done. A bit of tissue is removed from the thyroid gland through a thin needle. An anesthetic ointment is applied beforehand.


Children with a thyroid tumor are treated according to a protocol drawn up by national and international experts. In the event of a differentiated thyroid tumor, the entire thyroid gland is removed under general anesthesia, followed by radioactive iodine treatment.
In the event of medullary thyroid cancer, the thyroid gland and any metastases in the lymph nodes are removed under anesthesia. No radioactive iodine treatment applies in this instance.

Chance of recovery

Children with a differentiated thyroid tumor have a good chance of recovery, even if any metastases occur. The disease can recur where the thyroid gland used to be or in the lymph nodes. Regular check-ups including blood tests and scans are therefore necessary. Medullary thyroid cancer differs per child. If it involves metastases, the odds are less promising and it is difficult to get the disease under control. Your child will therefore have regular check-ups including blood tests.

Children who have had their thyroid gland removed must take thyroid hormone for the rest of their life.


Children who have a thyroid tumor are treated in collaboration with the Wilhelmina Children's Hospital.