As a senior at Field High School, Delaney Streby discovered a large lump on her neck, which prompted a referral to pediatric endocrinologist, Dr. Mamatha Kambalapalli, who leads the Pediatric Thyroid Program at Akron Children’s Hospital.
“Initially my primary care doctor thought it might be due to swollen lymph nodes,” Delaney said.
Dr. Kambalapalli ordered an ultrasound evaluation. A biopsy of the thyroid was performed, which confirmed that Delaney had thyroid cancer.
Akron Children’s Pediatric Thyroid Program provides multidisciplinary care for different thyroid conditions in children with a focus on thyroid nodules and thyroid cancer.
“The majority of thyroid nodules in children are benign, however, when a child or adolescent is found to have a thyroid nodule there is a two to three-fold increased risk of cancer compared with adults. Among adolescent girls, thyroid cancer is the second most common cancer,” said Dr. Kambalapalli.
“Because the term cancer causes a lot of anxiety for families, we are able to see these patients immediately and provide the necessary care in our multidisciplinary clinic,” Dr. Kambalapalli said. “Pediatric thyroid cancer is highly treatable with very high disease-free survival rates. Having a dedicated pediatric thyroid program is important because treatment in pediatrics is not the same as in adults.”
The Pediatric Thyroid Program has created a single point of contact for patients, through the Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology, to ensure care is coordinated with the team of specialists. This includes pediatric surgeons; an ear, nose and throat doctor; interventional radiologist; radiologists and pathologist.
The treatment for thyroid cancer involves removing the thyroid and potentially any surrounding lymph nodes. In the majority of cases, no chemotherapy is needed, but some patients require treatment with radioactive iodine. They will also need lifelong treatment with synthetic thyroid hormone and ongoing monitoring in the Pediatric Thyroid Program.
Such was the case with Delaney who was diagnosed in Dec. 2015 and had surgery to remove her thyroid and the surrounding lymph nodes a couple weeks later in January. The surgery was performed by pediatric surgeon Dr. John Crow.
“I had to follow a special diet while I was taking radioactive iodine, which meant no iodine, dairy or soy,” said Delaney. “I only missed about two weeks of school and at first did half days, but by that May, I was back on the soccer field and playing in a summer league.”
Delaney continues to do well. She is seen every 6 months in the Pediatric Thyroid Program and once a year has an ultrasound of her neck. This June, she will be five years cancer-free. Now 22 years old, she attends Kent State University at Stark and is majoring in middle childhood education.
“I’ve always wanted to work with kids and considered becoming an ultrasound technician based on my experience at Akron Children’s, but I knew that I would mostly be working with sick kids, which would be hard,” Delaney said.
While she will be soon be transitioning to an adult endocrinologist, she’s happy to continue to see Dr. Kambalapalli as the two share a special bond.
“Everything happened so fast and it should have been a very scary time in my life, but Dr. K. made me feel so comfortable,” Delaney said. “Cancer is not as scary when you have an amazing support system of family, friends and doctors.”
Visit the Pediatric Thyroid Program to learn more.