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Thyroid Nodule


A thyroid nodule is a growth (lump) in the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is located at the base of the neck.


Thyroid nodules are growths of cells in the thyroid gland.
These growths can be:

  • Not cancer (benign) or thyroid cancer
  • Fluid-filled (cysts) or made up of thyroid gland cells
  • One nodule or a group of small nodules

Thyroid nodules are more common in women than in men. A person's chance of getting a thyroid nodule increases with age.


Only a few thyroid nodules are due to thyroid cancer. A thyroid nodule is more likely to be cancer if you:

  • Have a hard nodule
  • Have a nodule that is stuck to nearby structures
  • Have a family history of thyroid cancer
  • Have a hoarse voice
  • Are younger than 20 or older than 70
  • Have a history of radiation exposure to the head or neck
  • Are male

Causes of thyroid nodules are not always found, but can include:

  • Hashimoto's disease
  • Lack of iron in the diet

Symptoms

Most thyroid nodules do not cause symptoms.

Large nodules can press against other structures in the neck, causing symptoms such as:

  • Goiter or an enlarged thyroid gland or lump(s) in the neck
  • Hoarseness or changing voice
  • Pain in the neck
  • Problems breathing
  • Problems swallowing

Nodules that produce thyroid hormones will likely cause symptoms of overactive thyroid gland, including:

  • Clammy skin
  • Fast pulse
  • Increased appetite
  • Nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Skin blushing or flushing
  • Weight loss

Thyroid nodules are sometimes found in people who have Hashimoto's disease, which may cause symptoms of an underactive thyroid gland, such as:

  • Dry skin
  • Face swelling
  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Intolerance to cold
  • Weight gain without trying

Treatment

Your health care provider may recommend surgery to remove all or part of your thyroid gland if the nodule is:

  • Believed to be making too much thyroid hormone
  • Causing symptoms such as swallowing or breathing problems
  • Due to thyroid cancer
  • Not able to be diagnosed as cancer or not cancer

Patients with nodules that are making too much thyroid hormone may be treated with radioactive iodine. This treatment reduces the size and activity of the nodule. Pregnant women should not be given this treatment.

Both surgery to remove thyroid gland tissue and radioactive iodine treatment carry risks of long-term thyroid problems.


  • Careful follow-up with a physical exam and ultrasound
  • A thyroid biopsy repeated 6 - 12 months after diagnosis, especially if the nodule has grown

Prognosis

Noncancerous thyroid nodules are not life threatening. Many do not require treatment. Follow-up exams are enough. The outlook for thyroid cancer depends on the type of cancer.


For more information on thyroid nodules click here

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