Thyroid cancer on the rise among children

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Thyroid cancer is the fastest growing cancer in the United States, and it's now being diagnosed more often in younger patients.

Since it's a cancer that has only a few early symptoms, experts say it's especially important that parents know what to look out for.

The McCarthy kids are always moving. Especially 4-year-old Chloe - that's why her parents never suspected something was wrong until two years ago.

"Well actually, my husband was playing with her, like you do a normal one and a half year old," said Lauren McCarthy, Chloe's mother. "Dip them upside down, bring them back, and when he pulled her up, her head was back and he saw the lump in her neck."

Images showed Chloe's one thyroid gland was three times its normal size. It was cancer. Doctors removed all of the thyroid tissue.

Dr. Andrew Bauer, a pediatric endocrinologist at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, says thyroid cancer in kids under 10 is rare - about five cases per every million. At age 15, those numbers jump to 18 per million.

"In adolescents, it's actually quite similar to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, which many people have heard of before," Bauer said.

Experts say most parents aren't aware that thyroid cancer can, and does strike kids. "They don't have any pain. They don't have weight loss," explained Dr. Bauer.

Doctors say parents should check kids for swelling or lumps in the neck. Don't skip routine check-ups, where doctors will examine neck glands.

Chloe is cancer-free and her parents are happy they can put this behind them.

Bauer says with early diagnosis and treatment, kids have a 95 percent chance of surviving thyroid cancer. Experts aren't sure why there has been an increase in thyroid cancers, but they say previous exposure to radiation is a risk factor.

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