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Thyroid nodules

Thyroid nodules - What it is

A thyroid nodule is a localized “swelling” within the thyroid gland. Sometimes this occurs as a single swelling in an otherwise normal gland. If multiple nodules are found within the same thyroid gland, it is known as a multinodular goitre.

Most are either simple “overgrowths” of normal thyroid tissue, fluid-containing cysts or slowly growing benign tumours called adenomas.

A small percentage of these nodules can be cancerous. The risk of thyroid cancer is higher if you had a history of radiation to the head and neck for other medical conditions, or if you have a family history of thyroid cancer.

Thyroid nodules - Symptoms

Most thyroid nodules do not cause symptoms. Thus, most people may only realize they have a thyroid nodule when it is large enough to be noticed in the mirror, or found by chance during a physical examination, or incidentally picked up on investigations like ultrasounds, CT scans or
PET scans.

Sometimes, bleeding into a thyroid cyst or nodule may cause a sudden painful swelling in the neck. Occasionally, advanced thyroid cancer may cause a hoarse voice or difficulty swallowing.

Thyroid nodules - How to prevent?

Thyroid nodules - Causes and Risk Factors

​The most common cause of multinodular goitres is iodine deficiency. However, it may still develop in some individuals who have enough iodine. In these people, the cause is not well understood.

Thyroid nodules - Diagnosis

Regardless of how a thyroid nodule is detected, an ultrasound scan of the thyroid gland is the best scan to characterise thyroid nodules. The appearance of each thyroid nodule in the ultrasound scan will guide us as to how likely a nodule is to be benign of cancerous. 

However, it is still not possible to differentiate between benign or cancerous thyroid nodules just by using an ultrasound scan alone. A fine needle aspiration and biopsy (FNAB) will help to make this differentiation.

An FNAB is a simple procedure that can be performed in the doctor’s office. A tiny needle is introduced into the thyroid nodule to obtain cells which are then analysed in the laboratory. 

Thyroid nodules - Treatments

​Most patients with benign thyroid nodules do not require any specific treatment, and are usually followed  up once or twice a year for changes in size. If cancer is suspected, surgery would be recommended.

Thyroid nodules - Preparing for surgery

Thyroid nodules - Post-surgery care

Thyroid nodules - Other Information

  • Updated on 2019-01-28T16:00:00Z

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