Currently, between 65,000 to 70,000 cases of cancers in adolescents and young adults (aged 15 to 39) are diagnosed each year in the United States. Among the different types of, thyroid cancer has emerged as one of the top five AYA cancers.
At present, thyroid surgery is considered one of the best treatment options for dealing with thyroid cancer in children.
Diagnosis prior to thyroid surgery
Just like adults with suspicious lumps in their neck or throat, adolescents and young adults are typically ordered by an endocrinologist or oncologist to take a neck ultrasound to further have the lumps assessed. It is considered the best initial workup method for testing thyroid nodules or growths in AYA patients.
Occasionally, the nodules are also evaluated using fine needle aspiration, a form of biopsy that involves inserting a thin needle into the suspicious tissue or body fluid to collect cell samples, which will then be examined in the laboratory.
Other times, a diagnostic thyroid lobectomy is also employed. The purpose of this surgical excision of part of the thyroid is also to collect samples of cells to diagnose the presence or absence of malignancy.
The thyroid surgery proper
Thyroid surgery may involve the procedure known as thyroidectomy, which is the total or near-total removal of the thyroid. Partial thyroidectomy, otherwise known as thyroid lobectomy, is also possible. It involves the removal of only a part of the thyroid’s lobes.
To initiate the surgery, an incision will be created on the neck. The blood vessels will be clamped to control the bleeding before the surgeon proceeds to operating on the thyroid. Afterwards, the incision is sutured to close the wound. The procedure takes between 2 to 4 hours to complete, and the patient is typically ordered to stay in the hospital for a day.
The doctor and nurse will provide the patient and his or her guardians with specific instructions regarding the post-surgery care procedures. It is important to bring the patient to the hospital if abnormal symptoms are experienced after the surgery. These include nausea and vomiting, muscle spasms, fatigue that doesn’t go away, chest pain, shortness of breath, and signs of infection like fever and swelling or redness of the incision area.
Depending on the type and stage of the cancer, the surgery may be combined with other types of treatments. These include radioactive iodine treatment, thyroid hormone therapy, external beam radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy.
About thyroid cancers and other types of cancers in AYA population
According to the National Cancer Institute, cancer diagnoses in adolescents and young adults represent about 5% of new cancer diagnoses in the United States each year.
Cancers in adolescents and young adults are about 6 times more prevalent than in children ages 0 to 14 years old. When it comes to certain cancers, adolescents and young adults are also more likely to be diagnosed compared to younger children or older adults. These include Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, testicular cancer, melanoma, sarcomas, and thyroid cancer.
In terms of incidence, thyroid cancer is one of the top 5 cancers that occur in adolescents and young adults, and the number of those affected are still increasing.
Previous studies have shown that cancers in young individuals may have unique genetic and biological characteristics. Researchers are still studying whether or not cancers like thyroid cancer in adolescents and you adults can be treated with therapies that aim to target the diseases on a molecular level.
Despite all these figures, the chance of curing thyroid cancer in young individuals is very good. Even in the general population, 5-year survival rates are at a high 97.8% in the United States. Early detection and removal of tumors is necessary in order to reduce the likelihood of the cancer drastically affecting a young person’s health and quality of life.
Pamela Miller works as a content manager for Saint John’s Health Center. She contributes health and wellness articles and participates in Cancer Awareness Campaigns in California.