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What is Thyroid Adenoma?

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  • Written By: N. Ayers
  • Edited By: Amanda L. Wardle
  • Last Modified Date: 13 September 2016
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Thyroid adenoma is a benign lump of cells in the thyroid gland that may also be referred to as a thyroid nodule. These tumors are common, often producing few symptoms, or none at all. Symptoms that do occur may indicate an overactive thyroid. Signs of thyroid cancer occur in only a few instances in which tumors are present. Treatments for a thyroid adenoma vary and may include surgery, therapy, or medication.

An estimated ten percent of the population is reported to have a thyroid nodule, with more women developing them than men. Aging is believed to increase chances of developing this type of tumor. Some tend to be classified as cysts filled with fluid, while others are a collection of smaller thyroid gland cells.

People who have a thyroid adenoma may not experience any clinical symptoms unless the tumor is cancerous, very large, or causing hyperthyroidism. Symptoms indicating large tumors include difficulty breathing and swallowing, voice changes, and neck pain. If hyperthyroidism is present, other symptoms that may occur include clammy skin, weight loss, a strong pulse, and blushing of the skin. A thyroid adenoma in people who have Hashimoto's disease may cause facial swelling, weight gain, and hair loss.

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Men and women who find a lump in their neck are urged to contact a health provider. Doctors typically find thyroid nodules during routine physical exams or imaging tests for other health related issues. If a thyroid adenoma is found, doctors may conduct different tests including thyroid scan and ultrasound, biopsy, and TSH test.

Characteristics that display an increased probability of cancerous tumors include a hard nodule, head or neck exposure to radiation, hoarse speech, and family history of thyroid cancer. In these cases, doctors may elect to surgically remove a portion of the thyroid gland. Surgery is also used to treat people with a thyroid adenoma that is causing a hyperthyroid or swallowing and breathing problems. Treatment for noncancerous thyroid nodules also presents some complications of hyperthyroidism from accidental damage to nerves in the vocal cord during surgery.

Some doctors also use radioactive iodine to treat patients who have an overactive thyroid. The iodine helps to reduce the size of these tumors but can cause the thyroid gland to become inflamed in rare cases. However, medical experts do not recommend radioactive iodine when treating pregnant women for thyroid tumors. Special cases of noncancerous nodules may include treatment using a drug called Levothyroxine to suppress the production of the T4 thyroid hormone. Laser therapy and alcohol injections are other treatments for a thyroid adenoma. Many noncancerous nodules do not require treatment and are not life-threatening.

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