What are thyroid nodules?

Thyroid Nodule Diagnosis. Is my nodule cancerous?

Most of the time, thyroid nodules do not produce any symptoms. They are often discovered during routine physical examinations or when the patient goes to the doctor for something like the flu, when the doctor will be looking at the throat.

If the nodules are large, they can push against other parts of the neck, which could produce some of the following symptoms: difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness, changing voice, goiter, or pain in the neck (literal).

If the nodule produces thyroid hormone, it can result of the same symptoms as hyperthyroidism, which are: clammy skin, increased appetite, bounding pulse, flushed skin, nervousness, restlessness, or a loss of weight.

If the nodules are due to Hoshimoto's disease, they can cause the following symptoms: weight gain, hair loss, swelling in the face, dry skin, lack of tolerance to cold temperatures, or fatigue.

When a nodule is discovered, the doctor might take a variety of courses of action to determine whether or not the nodule is cancerous. There are three primary ways in which this is determined.

Fine Needle Biopsy. This is a simple procedure that can be done at the doctor's office. There is no special preparation required on behalf of the patient like fasting, and the patient usually has no problem going home or back to work immediately. The doctor uses a small amount of anisthetic and a very small needle to withdraw cells from the nodule. He might take a few samples from different areas of the nodule. These cells are sent to a lab to determine whether or not they are cancerous. There will be one of four possible results from the test. Hopefully it will be benign (non-cancerous). There is about a 5% chance that it is malignant (cancerous). It may also be decided that it is suspicious and requires a thyroid scan. It also may be an inadequate sample, which is typical if the nodule is a cyst.

Thyroid Scan. Radioactive iodine is used in a very small amount. Thyroid cancer cells do not absorb the substance as easily as healthy cells, so the scan allows the doctor to see if there are cancer cells present. If the nodule doesn't take up the iodine normally then there may be cancer present. If it takes the iodine normally, then the chance of cancer is very remote, and a biopsy may not even be needed.

Thyroid Ultrasound. Sound waves are used from an ultrasound machine to get a picture of the thyroid. By using this test, it can be determined if the nodule is solid or cystic. It also determines the exact size of the nodule. This test done regularly determines if the nodule is growing or shrinking. This test can help determine if a fine needle biopsy is needed and helps in the performance of the biopsy.

After determining the nature of your nodule, the doctor will be able to decide which type of treatment or monitoring will be used.

Copyright 2009 ThyroidNodules.org All rights reserved. Privacy Policy