Thyroid nodules are small masses or growths that develop on the thyroid gland. They frequently develop in patients with autoimmune thyroid disease and thyroid cancer. In many cases, they are small enough that they don't interfere with your swallowing or cause any pain. However, despite their common presence, your doctor will likely recommend that you have other testing done. Here's a look at what you should know about that nodule.
What Happens When Your Doctor Finds a Nodule On Your Thyroid?
If your doctor identifies the presence of a nodule on your thyroid, he or she will want to have it evaluated to ensure that it isn't cancerous. That usually means a referral to an ear, nose and throat specialist first. The specialist will evaluate the nodule through an ultrasound to determine if you need to have it surgically removed or tested via biopsy.
What Does The Doctor Consider When Evaluating The Nodule?
In addition to the ultrasound, you may need to have blood tests to evaluate your thyroid's current performance. An overactive or underactive thyroid gland, as determined by testing your thyroid stimulating hormone level, is sometimes caused by an autoimmune condition that also causes the nodules to form. If your current thyroid levels are too high or too low, your doctor will prescribe medication to adjust those levels.
At the same time, if the doctor is concerned that the nodules may be cancerous, he or she may also suggest a fine-needle aspiration test, or biopsy, of the nodule. This is usually done with the help of an ultrasound to guide the needle. The process includes taking a sample of the cells inside the nodule with a syringe. Those cells are then examined for the presence of any cancerous changes.
What Is The Treatment Recommendation For Thyroid Nodules?
If the testing determines that your nodules are benign, which means not cancerous, you'll typically be directed to follow up with routine exams over time to ensure that the nodules don't change in size. If they do grow, you may need to have them surgically removed.
For nodules that are determined to be malignant, or cancerous, you'll likely be advised to have your thyroid removed. Depending on the progression of the nodules, you may even have to have some of the lymph nodes removed from the area around your thyroid. In some cases, you'll be referred to an oncologist for further evaluation and potentially more treatment.
Your primary care doctor is usually the first place to start if you're struggling with a thyroid disorder, but he or she may recommend that you work with a specialist to ensure proper treatment. With the information presented here, you will be better prepared to deal with nodules on your thyroid if they occur. Contact a company like Sturdy Memorial Hospital for more information.