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What is a Thyroid Nodule?

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  • Written By: Nat Robinson
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 29 September 2016
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A thyroid nodule is a collection of cells on the thyroid which grow to form a lump. The thyroid is a gland located in the front lower portion of the neck and is shaped similar to a butterfly. Most growths on the gland are fluid-filled benign nodules. Individuals with a solid thyroid nodule may be more suspected of a more serious condition such as thyroid cancer. The treatment for nodules on the thyroid will greatly depend on the type of nodule present and the severity of symptoms.

Some people with a thyroid nodule will not experience any symptoms. In fact, many are totally unaware of the presence of these growths until they are discovered during a routine physical examination. If a thyroid nodule becomes particularly large, an individual may experience symptoms such as neck pain, throat fullness, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness and breathing difficulties. There may also be noticeable swelling in the neck. Large nodules may be felt and are less likely to go unnoticed.

The thyroid is a hormone-producing gland. It produces hormones which promote growth and establish metabolism. Nodules on the thyroid can also secrete such hormones. In this event, an individual with a hormone-producing thyroid nodule may experience nervousness, flushing or clammy skin, an irregular heartbeat and restlessness. There may also be an increased appetite or weight loss.

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After the discovery of a nodule, a thyroid ultrasound will typically be ordered. An ultrasound uses high-frequency waves to produce an image of inner structures of the body. Ultrasounds can reveal if the thyroid nodule is hypoechoic or hyperechoic. A hypoechoic nodule will give off fewer echoes or shadows than the tissue which surrounds it and a hyperechoic nodule will produce more intense echoes. Generally, benign nodules are hyperechoic, while cancerous or malignant nodules may have a tendency to be hypoechoic.

If an individual is suspected to have a malignant nodule, he or she will generally undergo a thyroid biopsy. A biopsy will allow the doctor to remove cells from the nodule to test them for cancer. If thyroid cancer is found, the patient may have a thyroidectomy to remove the nodules and diseased parts of the thyroid gland. Some people with benign thyroid nodules may choose to have this procedure done, especially if the nodules are large and the patient is very symptomatic.

Only a doctor can make an accurate diagnosis of a thyroid disease. Although most nodules are benign, a complete examination of the thyroid should be done to rule out a malignancy. For this reason, an individual with throat or neck pain and a noticeable growth in the lower portion of the neck should consult a medical professional for further investigation.

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Rotergirl
Post 2

My doctor thought I had a thyroid nodule, but the ultrasound couldn't see it. So he did a CT scan and an MRI and even a PET scan, and never could see one. He finally concluded it was a swollen lymph node that had gone back down.

Three scans, no nodule, and about $50 in gas spent driving to and from tests, and two days off work to have them done. He figured I had a swollen lymph node from the bout with bronchitis I'd suffered, and it just stayed swollen longer than they usually do. Gee, thanks. Kept me scared to death for three solid weeks while they did all the tests, got the reports and told me there was nothing to see. I'm glad, obviously, but I wish my doctor had considered the lymph node possibility.

Pippinwhite
Post 1

I had a thyroid nodule removed in 2011-- benign, thank the Lord. I didn't know I had it. I was at the doctor's office for a routine visit and she felt the nodule when she was checking my lymph nodes.

I went to see my endocrinologist, and he ordered an ultrasound. He did say the report didn't have anything in it that made him think it was malignant, but thought I should have further tests.

So, I trotted off down to Birmingham, to see the hotshot thyroid specialist at UAB who looked about 21. He ordered a fine needle aspiration biopsy. Boy, was that fun. I had a bruise on my neck that looked like a giant hickey. Took me

about a half a tube of concealer to get it covered up so I could go to work without wearing a turtleneck.

I ended up having surgery to have it removed, but since it was benign, I can laugh about it, now.

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