Thyroid Nodules - Topic Overview
nodules are growths or lumps in the
thyroid gland in the front of your neck. This
gland controls how your body uses energy. Most thyroid nodules are not cancer
and do not cause problems. Many don't even need treatment.
Sometimes a thyroid nodule can cause problems. Sometimes a nodule can
make too much
thyroid hormone. When a nodule makes too much hormone,
the rest of the gland is suppressed and doesn't work as hard as
Most thyroid nodules are not cancerous. But if tests show cancer, surgery will be done to remove the nodule.
It is not clear what causes thyroid nodules. But
people who have been exposed to radiation have a greater chance of getting
them. Thyroid nodules are more common as you age. Also, the nodules tend to run in families. So if your parents had thyroid
nodules, you are more likely to have one.
Most thyroid nodules are so small that you
don't even know you have one.
If you have a big nodule, you may
be able to feel it, or you may notice swelling in your neck. It's possible that
you may also:
- Feel pain in your throat or feel like your
throat is full.
- Have a hard time swallowing.
- Feel nervous, have a fast heartbeat, sweat a
lot, or lose weight. These are symptoms of
hyperthyroidism, where the thyroid gland makes too
much thyroid hormone.
Most people don't find thyroid nodules on their own,
because the nodules aren't easy to feel and don't usually cause symptoms. Your
doctor may have found a nodule on your thyroid when you were having a
CT scan or
ultrasound for another reason. Your doctor will do a
physical exam and will ask you if you have symptoms or any changes in how
you've been feeling.
You may have tests to see how well your
thyroid is working and to make sure the nodule is not cancer. Possible tests
- A blood test to check the level of thyroid
hormone in your body.
- A thyroid scan, which uses
radioactive material and a camera to see how well your
thyroid gland is working. This is done if the level of thyroid hormone is high.
- Fine-needle aspiration, which removes a small amount of material from the nodule. The material is checked for cancer cells.
- Thyroid ultrasound, to see the number and size of nodules or
to locate the nodule for fine-needle aspiration.