Thyroid Nodule Got You Worried?
- Posted on: Jun 30 2016
Many patients are told they have a thyroid nodule by their primary care doctor or Ob/Gyn. Hearing this can be worrisome without a little knowledge about thyroid nodules.
They are actually very common. Most are benign and will cause no health issues. They can form in a normally functioning thyroid gland but are more common in glands that are under active or have autoimmune disorders such as “lymphocytic thyroiditis”. Some nodules can produce hyperthyroidism which can cause many hyper-metabolic symptoms such as anxiety and an elevated heart rate. Still other nodules more uncommonly may be a form of thyroid cancer such as papillary carcinoma. Thyroid cancer typically has no symptoms and these tumors are typically discovered on routine exam.
The approach to these nodules is straightforward and helps your doctor and you decide the most appropriate steps to take. Thyroid ultrasound should be done to characterize the nodule. Features can be determined that appear benign versus features that are worrisome for thyroid cancer. If there are features that are worrisome typically a fine needle biopsy under ultrasound guidance will be performed. A special type of pathologist will interpret that aspiration to determine if the cells look benign or cancerous.
Benign appearing nodules by ultrasound and by needle biopsy can be safely followed with repeat ultrasounds over time. In cases where the results are not clear, there are several options, depending on the patient’s desires. Sometimes the portion of the thyroid containing the nodule can be removed and a instant frozen section pathology analysis can help determine whether there is cancer and if a more comprehensive surgery is appropriate.
Thyroid nodules that appear to be consistent with a cancerous growth will be treated by a surgery, usually performed by and ear, nose & throat (ENT) physician, where the thyroid is removed. Advanced techniques now available allow your thyroid surgery to be performed as an outpatient with a small incision and rapid recovery. Ask to make sure these advanced techniques are being used for your care.
The main point to keep in mind is that thyroid cancer is typically very slow growing, easily cured with an outpatient simple and low risk surgery, and will likely leave the patient with no longterm health issues after treatment.
Posted in: Thyroid