A thyroid nodule is an abnormal growth that can form as a lump in the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland, which is located on the front of the neck, is a gland that wraps around the trachea or windpipe. The thyroid nodule can form on any part of the thyroid gland, some are easy to find and visible from outside the body, while others are deep and mostly hidden and might be hard to feel.
Symptoms of Thyroid Nodules
Most of the thyroid nodules won’t cause any symptoms however some of the thyroid nodules cause a change in the thyroid hormone which can cause an overactive thyroid, also called hyperthyroidism and the associated symptoms. Some patients may experience mild pain at the site of the nodule that stretches to the jaw and ear. Large thyroid nodules might make it difficult to breathe or swallow as it compresses the trachea and esophagus. Occasionally, people with thyroid nodules might have difficulty speaking or hoarseness in their voice.
Types of Thyroid Nodules
There are different types of thyroid nodules including those that are single or multiple. Multiple thyroid nodules are called multinodular goiter. If the thyroid is filled with blood or fluid, it is referred to as a thyroid cyst. Thyroid nodules that produce the thyroid hormone in a way that seems uncontrollable is called an autonomous thyroid nodule. The signs and symptoms of the different types of thyroid nodules might also change slightly, though as mentioned previously, there aren’t many signs of thyroid nodules that are obvious to the individual. Most of the thyroid nodules are not cancerous and called follicular adenomas or colloid nodules. The cancerous thyroid nodules are categorized by the type of malignant cells they contain such as follicular, medullary, papillary, or anaplastic cells.
Diagnosing Thyroid Nodules
A physical examination and a series of tests are performed to diagnose thyroid nodules. This includes a physical examination of the neck to look for the small bump that is indicative of a thyroid nodule issue. The doctor will ask for the patient’s medical history and family medical history before performing any tests. Some of these tests include blood tests to check for the T3 and T4 thyroid hormones and the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). Other tests include an ultrasonography, ultrasound, radionclide scanning, fine needle aspiration, or biopsy.
Treating Thyroid Nodules
The treatment options for thyroid nodules will depend on a variety of factors including the type of nodule it is, whether or not it is cancerous, if the patient is healthy enough to undergo surgery. Most types of thyroid cancers caused by thyroid nodules are not life threatening and can be cured.