What is a Thyroid Nodule?
A thyroid nodule is a growth of thyroid cells that forms a lump within the thyroid gland. Most thyroid nodules are benign (noncancerous). Some thyroid nodules do contain thyroid cancer.
What Causes a Thyroid Nodule?
Thyroid nodules can be caused by many different conditions. Benign causes of thyroid nodules include:
- Multinodular goiter
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
- Follicular adenoma
- Thyroid nodules can be caused by thyroid cancer, but this is uncommon.
Thyroid nodules are common. According to the American Thyroid Association, up to half of people have a thyroid nodule by the age of 60.
Symptoms of a Thyroid Nodule
Most thyroid nodules do not cause symptoms. Often, thyroid nodules are found incidentally during imaging tests done for unrelated reasons.
If a thyroid nodule is large enough, a person may notice a lump in their neck, or their physician may find it during a physical examination. Very large thyroid nodules may press against the trachea (windpipe) or esophagus, causing difficulty breathing or swallowing, respectively.
In the presence of a thyroid nodule, thyroid hormone levels are typically normal. This is usually the case even when cancer is present in a thyroid nodule.
How does Dr. Kanji evaluate and manage a thyroid nodule?
When a thyroid nodule is found, there are 2 key steps to evaluate the thyroid gland and nodule further:
- Checking laboratory tests to evaluate the function of the thyroid gland. Is the thyroid gland underactive, functioning normally, or overactive?
- A thyroid ultrasound which is a painless imaging technique without any radiation. The thyroid ultrasound is dedicated to evaluating the thyroid gland and the nodule. The nodule’s size and characteristics are closely evaluated.
Based on the above, a decision is made whether the thyroid nodule requires a biopsy, also known as fine needle aspiration (FNA). If a thyroid nodule does not need biopsy, it may be monitored over time with thyroid ultrasound.
Frequently Asked Questions about Thyroid Nodules
Do you perform thyroid ultrasound in the office?
No. We use a trusted imaging facility for thyroid ultrasound.
How much does a thyroid ultrasound cost?
The cost is highly variable when using health insurance. In this situation, we provide additional information during the consultation. Cash price for thyroid ultrasound ranges from $125 – $150.
How do I know if I need a thyroid nodule biopsy (fine needle aspiration)?
The size and characteristics of the thyroid nodule will be evaluated by Dr. Kanji to determine how suspicious the thyroid nodule is for thyroid cancer. If the thyroid nodule is at or above a certain level of suspicion, a thyroid nodule biopsy will be recommended.
If thyroid cancer is detected in the nodule, how is it treated?
Thyroid nodules that contain thyroid cancer, or highly suspicious for thyroid cancer, should be surgically removed by an experienced surgeon.