Thyroid nodules are lumps or small growths
in the thyroid gland, a hormone-secreting gland located in the neck. About
90 percent of thyroid nodules are benign (noncancerous).
In contrast to thyroid nodules, the term goiter is
used for enlargement of the entire thyroid gland, which usually occurs because
the gland is attempting to produce more thyroid hormone. The December 1, 2004,
issue of JAMA includes an article about thyroid nodules
and how they should be treated.
Iodine deficiency—the most common cause of
thyroid nodules worldwide but not in the United States—is preventable
by use of iodized salt
Women are more likely to get thyroid nodules than
Having irradiation therapy on the head or neck
as a child (to treat cancer or other diseases)
Most of the time, there are no symptoms at all.
A nodule may be visible as a lump in the neck that
moves with swallowing.
If the nodule presses against other structures
in the neck, there may be some pressure or pain.
Rarely, a large nodule may cause problems with
Thyroid nodules can sometimes be seen as lumps
in the neck or can be felt by touching the neck.
Blood tests of thyroid function should be done
to see if the thyroid is making the normal amount of thyroid hormone although
nodules usually do not affect thyroid hormone production.
Ultrasound imaging of
the thyroid using sound waves can reveal thyroid nodules and their composition.
Radioactive iodine scanning can
indicate whether a nodule is functioning (incorporating iodine). Almost all
thyroid cancers occur in nonfunctioning nodules.
Fine-needle aspiration can
help determine whether the thyroid nodule is benign or malignant. A very fine
needle is guided into the nodule, sometimes using ultrasound imaging, and
some of the nodule cells are removed to be evaluated in the laboratory.
Many benign thyroid nodules remain the same size
and some shrink on their own.
Synthetic thyroid hormone should be taken as a
once-a-day pill only if the thyroid hormone levels are low. Administering
thyroid hormone does not cause nodules to shrink.
Nodules found to be malignant should be surgically
American Thyroid Association1-800-THYROID (849-7643)http://www.thyroid.org
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Many are available in English and Spanish. A Patient Page on hypothyroidism
was published in the December 10, 2003, issue.
Source: American Thyroid Association
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TOPIC: THYROID NODULES
Parmet S, Lynm C, Glass RM. Thyroid Nodules. JAMA. 2004;292(21):2684. doi:10.1001/jama.292.21.2684