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Thyroid Nodules In Children

Ann K. White, Richard J.H. Smith

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Thyroid nodules are infrequently encountered in children. During the era of low-dose therapeutic irradiation, the incidence of malignancy in these lesions was 40% to 70%. Recent studies suggest that this incidence is declining, resulting in a concomitant relative increase in the proportion of benign nodular conditions. There is also a heightened awareness that secondary thyroid neoplasms may occur in children surviving primary malignant diseases. Records of 38 children treated surgically at Texas Children's Hospital between 1972 and 1984 have been reviewed to determine the incidence of benign vs. malignant pathosis and to study the role of prior irradiation or chemotherapy in the pathogenesis of thyroid disease. Benign conditions were diagnosed in 27 children (71%), with diffuse hyperplasia (10 children, 26%) and follicular adenoma (8 children, 21%) occurring most frequently. Thyroid carcinoma was diagnosed in the remaining 11 children (29%). All of these patients were euthyroid at presentation, none had received multimodal therapy for a prior malignant condition, and only one had a history of head and neck irradiation in infancy for a treatment of a benign condition (a congenital hemangioma). The clinical presentation, diagnostic evaluation, and surgical management of these patients are reviewed and closely parallel those of patients in other recently published series. No conclusions can be drawn regarding the development of thyroid neoplasia following multimodal therapy for primary disease; however, this incidence must be very low.