Thyroid Nodules

Symptoms of a Thyroid Nodule

  • Thyroid cancer in children most often presents as a mass that is seen or felt in the neck. This mass can be the primary tumor in the thyroid or it may represent a lymph node metastasis.
  • Thyroid cancer is usually painless and without symptoms in its early stages.
  • Unless an obvious neck nodule or growth can be seen, most cases are detected by chance during a routine physical examination or during a doctor visit for an unrelated purpose.
  • Some symptoms that may appear include:
    • Hoarseness that is inexplicable and persistent
    • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
    • Difficulty swallowing
    • Nodule (lump) or growth on the neck
    • An abnormally large lymph node that fails to spontaneously shrink over a few months' time

More about Nodules and the Possibility of Cancer

  • Most thyroid nodules are benign and not cancer.
  • In children, 20% to 30% of thyroid nodules are proven to be cancer. In contrast, only 5-10% of nodules in adults are cancer.

Evaluation of a Thyroid Nodule in a Child or Adolescent

The steps may include:

  • Physical examination
  • Neck ultrasound
  • Fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy, often under ultrasound guidance
  • Thyroid function lab tests
  • Chest X-ray
  • CT (computerized tomography) without iodine contrast
  • Thyroid scan with low-dose radioactive iodine or technetium

For More Information

For more information about causes of thyroid cancer, symptoms of a nodule, and evaluation of a nodule, visit the Newly Diagnosed section of ThyCa's web site.

Last updated: February 21, 2022