Thyroid nodules are one of the most common thyroid disorders. Many people live with a small amount of swelling or a lump in their thyroid gland, and do not know that this condition exists. However, with time, the swelling or lump can grow causing symptoms such as difficulty swallowing or breathing properly.
When significant thyroid nodules are found, it is important that the nodules are testes to determine the nature of the swelling or lump (also known as a “goitre”). In the majority of cases, thyroid nodules are benign (non-cancerous). Nevertheless, it is important to rule out cancer so that a proper treatment plan can be devised based on the diagnosis.
Getting thyroid nodules tested
A thyroid surgeon may use a thyroid scan in order to make a proper diagnosis. For this diagnostic test, a small dose of radioactive iodine in the form of a pill is swallowed. The iodine is then monitored by a camera so that the specialist can see whether the thyroid nodule is functioning in a way that is typical of a cancerous growth or a benign nodule. A fine needle aspiration biopsy may also be used to extract cells or fluid from the nodule in order to test it for the presence of cancer.
If the nodules are found to be cancerous, they will probably need to be removed surgically. Usually, the majority of thyroid tissue is also removed in order to ensure that the cancer is completely eradicated.
Benign nodules may require suppression therapy that includes taking appropriate medications. These medications are designed to signal the pituitary system to produce less of the hormone that causes thyroid tissue growth. In some cases, nodules that have grown so large that they cause breathing and/or swallowing problems will need to be removed surgically. These goitres can constrict blood vessels, airways and the oesophagus, but relief can be found when they are surgically removed.
If you have questions about getting thyroid nodules tested, contact your local doctor who will arrange for you to see a thyroid surgeon.