Thyroid nodules involve the development of lumps in the thyroid gland. They are not all that uncommon – occurring in roughly six percent of women and two percent of men – but oftentimes they go undiagnosed because they don’t cause any issues. However, if a nodule grows too big or a cluster forms, it could be a sign of a larger issue. Today, we explain how thyroid nodules are caused, diagnosed and treated.
Causes and Symptoms of Thyroid Nodules
A thyroid nodule can develop for a number of different reasons, including:
- Overgrowth of “normal” thyroid tissue
- The development of fluid filled cysts in the gland
- Inflammation in the thyroid/Thyroiditis
- Benign or cancerous tumor development
As we mentioned above, the majority of people who have thyroid nodules do not know they are dealing with them because most nodules don’t express any symptoms. Many are found during routine exams or by chance when looking at a related issue. However, in the cases where symptoms are expressed, individuals with a thyroid nodule may notice a lump on the front portion of their neck, a vague pressure sensation in the area, or throat discomfort when swallowing.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Thyroid Nodules
There are a number of different ways to go about diagnosing a thyroid nodule. Some doctors prefer to confirm the diagnosis with a thyroid scan, which involves taking a scan of the thyroid area after the patient is administered a small dose of a radioactive isotope that will highlight the thyroid cells. Others prefer to perform a thyroid needle biopsy, which uses a small needed to draw fluid from the area, which can provide sufficient information about treatment in about 75 percent of cases. This method can also confirm if the patient is dealing with a benign or cancerous tumor in the thyroid. A third and final diagnosis option is through a thyroid ultrasonography, which takes pictures of the area using high-frequency sound waves, allowing the doctors to see nodules that are only two or three millimeters in size. Ultrasonography is sometimes used in conjunction with a biopsy so the surgeon can see the precise location of the needle.
Treatment of your thyroid nodule depends on what is discovered during the diagnosis and examination stage. If your nodule is benign and doesn’t present a threat, you may not need any treatment other than occasional monitoring. However, if cancer is suspected, surgery will likely be the preferred course of action. During surgery, an endocrine surgeon will work to remove the cancerous nodules, and if malignancy is confirmed, they will remove the rest of the thyroid gland and any abnormal lymph nodes to help stop the spread of cancer cells.
For more information about thyroid nodules and your options, speak to an endocrine surgeon today.