Endocrine Surgery

Thyroid Nodules

Thyroid nodules are solid or fluid-filled lumps that form within your thyroid.  The majority of thyroid nodules are noncancerous and don't have symptoms. Thyroid nodules occur in about 50% of the population but are palpable in only about 5% of patients.  Thyroid cancer occurs in a small percentage of all nodules

Many thyroid nodules aren’t discovered until a routine medical exam. Some thyroid nodules, however, may become large enough to press on your windpipe, making it uncomfortable or difficult to swallow. An ultrasound guided needle biopsy is the most efficient diagnostic tool to discover a thyroid cancer.  Your University Surgeons Associates surgeon along with your primary care practitioner and/or endocrinologist will guide a decision about thyroid surgery for a cancerous, suspicious or indeterminant nodule.

Although most thyroid nodules don't cause signs or symptoms, some nodules become so large that you can:

  • Feel them
  • See the swelling at the base of your neck
  • They may become apparent when you're shaving or putting on makeup. Men sometimes become aware of a nodule when their shirt collars suddenly feel too tight.

In some cases, thyroid nodules produce too much thyroid hormone.  The extra hormone can cause problems such as:

  • Sudden, unexplained weight loss
  • Nervousness
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat

causes of thyroid nodules

Some of the more common causes of thyroid nodules include:

  • Multinodular goiter
  • Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
  • Cysts
  • Follicular adenomas
  • Subacute thyroiditis
  • Papillary cancer
  • Follicular cancer
  • Medullary canaer
  • Anaplastic cancer
  • Lymphoma
  • Metastatic cancer

 Although thyroid nodules are seldom cancerous (malignant), a nodule is more likely to be cancerous if:

  • Prior neck radiation
  • Family history of medullary cancer
  • Family history of multiple endocrine tumors
  • Age <20 or >70 years old
  • Male
  • Grows quickly or feels hard
  • Ill-defined nodule
  • Fixed nodule
  • Neck lymph nodes develop
  • You to become hoarse or to have trouble swallowing or breathing

when to see a doctor

Although most thyroid nodules are noncancerous (benign) and don't cause problems, ask your doctor to evaluate any unusual swelling in your neck, especially if you have trouble breathing or swallowing. If you have any of the risk factors for thyroid cancer and you develop a thyroid mass, you should contact your doctor or University Surgeons Associates to be evaluated.

Related Links and Resources