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Steven G. Waguespack and Gary Francis

Children with differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC) often present with metastatic disease and have a high risk for recurrence, but rarely die of the disease. This article reviews DTC in children and discusses current approaches to their initial care and follow-up. These recommendations take into account the greater risk for recurrence and lower disease-specific mortality in these patients. Total thyroidectomy and central compartment lymph node dissection are appropriate for most children, but should be performed by a high-volume thyroid surgeon. Radioactive iodine (RAI) should generally be prescribed for those at very high risk for recurrence or known to have microscopic residual disease, and those with iodine-avid distant metastases. RAI should be considered in other patients only after carefully weighing the relative risks and benefits and the aggressiveness of the clinical presentation, because RAI may be associated with an increased risk for second malignancies and an increase in overall morbidity and mortality. All patients should be treated with thyroid hormone suppression, and follow-up should be lifelong. However, the degree of thyroid hormone suppression and frequency of disease surveillance usually decrease over time as patients are determined to be disease-free.