Thyroid cancer: Teenagers and young adults


Thyroid cancer is an uncommon type of cancer that affects teenagers and young adults in particular. It usually starts in the cells inside the thyroid gland, which is located in the front of the neck and produces hormones that regulate the body’s metabolism. As with most cancers, the exact cause of thyroid cancer in teenagers and young adults is unknown. Early symptoms of the disease may include a lump on the neck, difficulty breathing or swallowing, persistent hoarseness, or persistent coughing. If diagnosed early, the prognosis is usually good, with the goal of treatment being to effectively remove the cancerous cells and preserve the functioning of the thyroid gland. Treatment may involve surgery, radiation therapy, or drug therapy, depending on the size and stage of the cancer.


The most common symptom of thyroid cancer in teenagers and young adults is a lump on the neck, usually below the Adam’s apple. Other common symptoms include hoarseness, difficulty swallowing or breathing, swollen lymph nodes, and pain in the neck or throat. Less common symptoms include a persistent cough, changes in voice, and changes in energy levels.


The cause of thyroid cancer in teenagers and young adults is not fully understood. However, several factors have been identified that may increase the risk of developing thyroid cancer, including exposure to radiation, a family history of thyroid cancer, and certain inherited genetic conditions. In addition, certain environmental exposures and lifestyle factors, such as alcohol consumption and smoking, may also play a role in the development of this type of cancer.

Risk factors

Risk factors for teenage and young adults developing thyroid cancer include:

  • radiation exposure, including radiation therapy
  • a personal history of other types of cancer, such as leukemia or lymphoma
  • being female
  • having a family history of thyroid cancer
  • having certain inherited genetic syndromes, such as multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome
  • certain immune disorders, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.


Thyroid cancer in teenagers and young adults is usually diagnosed through a combination of symptoms and testing. A physical exam of the neck area is often the first step, followed by imaging tests such as X-rays, CT scans, and ultrasounds which can help to reveal any suspicious lumps or tumors in the thyroid. A biopsy may also be conducted to take a sample of the tissue and confirm a diagnosis. Blood tests may also be done to measure the levels of hormones and substances produced by the thyroid.


Subtypes of Thyroid Cancer in Teenagers and Young Adults include:

  1. Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma: This is the most common type of thyroid cancer in adolescents and young adults, comprising 80-90% of all cases. It is a slow-growing cancer that generally has a good prognosis.
  2. Follicular Thyroid Carcinoma: Follicular thyroid cancer accounts for 10-15% of thyroid cancer cases in young people. It can be more aggressive than papillary thyroid cancer and is usually found in older patients.
  3. Anaplastic Thyroid Carcinoma: Anaplastic thyroid cancer is a rare, aggressive type that is usually found in older patients. It is highly resistant to treatment and has a poor prognosis.
  4. Medullary Thyroid Carcinoma: Medullary thyroid cancer is a very rare type that originates from the thyroid cells called parafollicular cells. It is the most aggressive type of thyroid cancer and is usually found in patients aged 30 or older.
  5. Hurthle Cell Carcinoma: Hurthle cell carcinoma is another rare type of thyroid cancer that is usually found in older patients. It has a lower likelihood of spreading to other parts of the body but is still aggressive and requires aggressive treatment.


Treatment of thyroid cancer in teenagers and young adults typically involves a combination of surgery, radioactive iodine, and hormone therapy.

Surgery: Surgery is the most common treatment and it may involve removing the entire thyroid, some of the lymph nodes in the neck, or just a lobectomy of the thyroid gland.

Radioactive Iodine: This can help shrink and destroy any remaining cancerous cells. It is usually administered orally in pill form.

Hormone Therapy: Some doctors may also prescribe thyroid hormone pills to reduce levels of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) in the body, which can stop the growth of cancer cells.

Follow-up Care: After treatment, frequent checkups and follow-up testing may be necessary to monitor for any signs of cancer recurrence.


To reduce the risk of thyroid cancer in teenagers and young adults, it is important to limit exposure to environmental pollutants such as radiation, lead, and asbestos. Additionally, avoiding smoking and using sunscreen regularly are also important preventive measures. Eating a healthy diet and avoiding processed foods can also contribute to reducing the risk of thyroid cancer, as can exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight. Finally, regular check-ups with a doctor should be scheduled to regularly monitor any changes in the thyroid.

Gender differences?

Yes, there are gender-specific differences in the presentation and management of thyroid cancer in teenagers and young adults. Generally, females are more likely to be diagnosed with thyroid cancer than males in this age group, and their tumors tend to be smaller in size. In addition, females with thyroid cancer in this age range often experience more aggressive forms of the disease with higher recurrence rates. As a result, females often require more intensive and personalized treatments to manage their thyroid cancer. The management of thyroid cancer in females may also involve more frequent testing, surveillance, and follow-up care than males. Considering these gender-specific differences, healthcare providers should tailor their approach to the individual needs and preferences of each patient when treating teenagers and young adults with thyroid cancer.


Nutrition plays an important role in the management of thyroid cancer for teenagers and young adults. A balanced diet enriched with essential nutrients can help to improve overall health. This can, in turn, help to boost the immune system and increase the body’s ability to fight off cancer cells. Eating foods that are high in anti-inflammatory properties can also help to reduce inflammation, which may help reduce the risk of thyroid cancer. Additionally, increasing intake of foods that are high in anti-oxidants, such as fruits and vegetables, may help to reduce the risk of recurrence and progression of the cancer. Eating a variety of nutrient-dense foods, including lean proteins, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and plant-based proteins, can help to support a healthy weight and provide the body with the necessary vitamins and minerals to support overall health.

Physical Activity

Physical activity can help reduce the risk of developing thyroid cancer in teenagers and young adults. Studies have found that people who are more physically active can reduce their risk of developing thyroid cancer by 20-25%. Regular exercise can help regulate hormone levels, reduce inflammation and boost the immune system. Additionally, physical activity can help reduce obesity, which is another risk factor for developing thyroid cancer. Engaging in physical activity is an important way to reduce the risk of thyroid cancer in teenagers and young adults.

Further Reading


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