Thyroid Nodule

What is Thyroid Nodule

Thyroid nodule is an isolated growth of thyroid cells that forms a lump in your thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland. It is found in the lower front of your neck. This gland sends chemical messengers (hormones) through your blood to all parts of your body.

These hormones are important in regulating your body temperature and helping your body to use energy. Thyroid nodules are common. Most are not cancerous (are benign). You may have one nodule or several nodules.

Different types of thyroid nodules include:

  • Nodules that grow and fill with fluid (thyroid cysts).
  • Nodules that produce too much thyroid hormone (hot nodules or hyperthyroid).
  • Nodules that produce no thyroid hormone (cold nodules or hypothyroid).
  • Nodules that form from cancer cells (thyroid cancers).

What are the causes?

Usually, the cause of this condition is not known.

What increases the risk?

Factors that make this condition more likely to develop include:

  • Increasing age. Thyroid nodules become more common in people who are older than 45 years of age.
  • Gender.
    • Benign thyroid nodules are more common in women.
    • Cancerous (malignant) thyroid nodules are more common in men.
  • A family history that includes:
    • Thyroid nodules.
    • Pheochromocytoma.
    • Thyroid carcinoma.
    • Hyperparathyroidism.
  • Certain kinds of thyroid diseases, such as Hashimoto thyroiditis.
  • Lack of iodine.
  • A history of head and neck radiation, such as from X-rays.

What are the signs or symptoms?

It is common for this condition to cause no symptoms. If you have symptoms, they may include:

  • A lump in your lower neck.
  • Feeling a lump or tickle in your throat.
  • Pain in your neck, jaw, or ear.
  • Having trouble swallowing.

Hot nodules may cause symptoms that include:

  • Weight loss.
  • Warm, flushed skin.
  • Feeling hot.
  • Feeling nervous.
  • A racing heartbeat.

Cold nodules may cause symptoms that include:

  • Weight gain.
  • Dry skin.
  • Brittle hair. This may also occur with hair loss.
  • Feeling cold.
  • Fatigue.

Thyroid cancer nodules may cause symptoms that include:

  • Hard nodules that feel stuck to the thyroid gland.
  • Hoarseness.
  • Lumps in the glands near your thyroid (lymph nodes).

How is this diagnosed?

A thyroid nodule may be felt by your health care provider during a physical exam. This condition may also be diagnosed based on your symptoms. You may also have tests, including:

  • An ultrasound. This may be done to confirm the diagnosis.
  • A biopsy. This involves taking a sample from the nodule and looking at it under a microscope to see if the nodule is benign.
  • Blood tests to make sure that your thyroid is working properly.
  • Imaging tests such as MRI or CT scan may be done if:
    • Your nodule is large.
    • Your nodule is blocking your airway.
    • Cancer is suspected.

How is this treated?

Treatment depends on the cause and size of your nodule or nodules. If the nodule is benign, treatment may not be necessary. Your health care provider may monitor the nodule to see if it goes away without treatment. If the nodule continues to grow, is cancerous, or does not go away:

  • It may need to be drained with a needle.
  • It may need to be removed with surgery.

If you have surgery, part or all of your thyroid gland may need to be removed as well.

Follow these instructions at home:

  • Pay attention to any changes in your nodule.
  • Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your health care provider.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as told by your health care provider. This is important.

Contact a health care provider if:

  • Your voice changes.
  • You have trouble swallowing.
  • You have pain in your neck, ear, or jaw that is getting worse.
  • Your nodule gets bigger.
  • Your nodule starts to make it harder for you to breathe.

Get help right away if:

  • You have a sudden fever.
  • You feel very weak.
  • Your muscles look like they are shrinking (muscle wasting).
  • You have mood swings.
  • You feel very restless.
  • You feel confused.
  • You are seeing or hearing things that other people do not see or hear (having hallucinations).
  • You feel suddenly nauseous or throw up.
  • You suddenly have diarrhea.
  • You have chest pain.
  • There is a loss of consciousness.
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