Differentiated Thyroid Cancer


Differentiated thyroid cancers consist of papillary and follicular thyroid cancers, with papillary being the most common. Papillary thyroid cancer tends to grow slowly and often spreads to the lymph nodes. Follicular thyroid cancer can also spread to lymph nodes in the neck, but it is more likely than papillary to spread to the lungs and bones.


Most differentiated thyroid cancers show no signs or symptoms. When symptoms do occur they may include:

  • A lump in the neck
  • Hoarseness
  • Swollen glands
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing


Differentiated thyroid cancer diagnosis will begin with a physical exam and review of your child’s full medical history. In addition, our physicians may use a variety of diagnostic tests including:

  • Ultrasound, a radiation-free imaging technique, which uses high-frequency soundwaves to capture images of your child’s thyroid, any irregular thyroid nodules and/or neck lymph nodes.  
  • Fine needle aspiration biopsy may be used to extract cells from the thyroid nodule and any abnormal lymph nodes for further examination. 


At Texas Children’s Hospital, treatment plans are tailored to your child’s individual needs. Differentiated thyroid cancer treatment may include:

  • Surgery: A total thyroidectomy (removal of the entire thyroid gland) or a lobectomy (partial removal) may be performed. In some cases, the lymph nodes may also be surgically removed. These surgeries should be performed by high-volume surgical teams, such as our Thyroid Program Surgical Team, to achieve the best possible outcomes.
  • Medication: After surgery, your child will be treated with hormone replacement medication.
  • Radioactive iodine: An oral medication that is used to destroy any residual cancerous thyroid tissue after surgery. An oral medication that is remaining after a total thyroidectomy. Some patients who are at a low-risk of persistent or recurring cancer, may be followed clinically without receiving this treatment.