The first step in diagnosing
thyroid nodules is a
medical history and
physical exam. Thyroid nodules often are found during
a physical exam or during a
CT scan or
ultrasound of the neck, chest, or head done for
another problem. Most people do not find thyroid nodules on their own, because
they are difficult to feel and usually do not cause symptoms.
your doctor finds a thyroid nodule, he or she may refer you to an
endocrinologist for more tests and treatment.
Fine-needle aspiration guided by ultrasound. Material that is removed from the nodule is checked for cancer cells. This is a simple procedure that can be done in your doctor's office.
Thyroid ultrasound. Ultrasound uses reflected sound waves to create a picture of
organs and other structures inside your body. Ultrasound cannot show whether a
nodule is cancerous, but it can help your doctor:
Confirm that you have thyroid nodules if
other tests have not been clear.
See what is happening to nodules
that are not going away.
Find your nodule during a thyroid biopsy with a
test. This test checks your level of a hormone called calcitonin as a way to
help find out if you have cancer. This test will probably be done if other
people in your family have had thyroid cancer or any other type of cancer of
This test uses radioactive material and a camera to see how well your thyroid
gland is working and to see if you have
nodule is not cancerous, your doctor will see you regularly to monitor the size of your nodule. He or she
may do other tests, such as checking your
thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels or doing a thyroid
ultrasound. If your nodule grows, other tests or surgery may be needed.
your thyroid gland was removed because of cancer, your doctor may test for
thyroglobulin, a protein made by both normal and cancerous cells. High levels
of thyroglobulin may mean that the cancer has spread (metastasized) to other
parts of your body.