Eight-year-old boy successfully treated for rare thyroid cancer in India

Last year a seven year old girl in Bengaluru was diagnosed with PTC (papillary thyroid cancer) and this year it has been an eight year old boy from Yemen who came to india to get treated for PTC, a condition which can happen at any age but is mostly seen in adults in the 30 plus age group. According to research, PTC is the  most common type of thyroid cancer having ‘excellent’ prognosis and treatment in the form of surgery which is most often successful. The eight year old boy from Yemen got treated at Mumbai’s Jaslok hospital, at the hands of Dr Fazal Nabi, a paediatrician. 

Initially, the child showed symptoms in the form of a 4X4 cm swelling on the front and left side of the neck – this had been present for three months before the child visited the hospital. He had been diagnosed for cancer in yemen itself, after which he came to India to seek further treatment. By the time he underwent investigations, the cancer had not spread in the other organs of the body, which was a relief but the challenge came during the operating process, said doctors to THE WEEK. The surgery became challenging as the doctors had to dissect the tumour from vital areas that were relatively small. “The child was thin built and the neck was so slender that even the slightest pressure would have caused damage. And that damage might have led to a change in his voice and difficulty breathing but thankfully everything went well,” said Dr Mehul Bhansali, director of surgical oncology at Jaslok hospital. 

Additionally, according to Dr. Snehal, another problem pertained to the language barrier, given that the family hails from Yemen. Post-surgery, though, the child recovered well after the initial few days when he was not able to eat well, given the swelling in the throat. PTC mainly affects the thyroid gland located in the neck and accounts for 1.4 percent of all pediatric malignancies, according to academic papers.

So, what is the reason for PTC to occur in the first place? That is not yet fully known. It could be genetics, it could have to do with a lifestyle that involves high consumption of additive-laden or hormone-impacting foods, or even exposure to harmful radiations. There is no clarity on the exact cause. As of now, the child and his family have returned to Yemen, and the child is recovering. He is able to eat a normal diet without any difficulties and will have to undergo screening every so often, at least every three months, to be sure that there is no recurrence of cancer. Also, as per the doctors, the child will have to consume thyroid supplements for life.