Do you have a thyroid nodule? If you’re not sure, there’s a good chance you might have one or more. If you answered yes, you are not alone. Recent studies report that over 50% of people over the age of 65 have at least one thyroid nodule. The good news is that even though they cause some irritating symptoms, more than 95% of these nodules are benign. If you have been diagnosed with a thyroid nodule, knowledge of the disease process will be of great importance for you. There are three questions that you should know if you are one of the growing number of patients with this condition. What is a nodule? How do I make sure that it is not a cancer? What are my management options?
What is a nodule?
A thyroid nodule is a growth within your thyroid gland. You can have one or more of these growths. The term multinodular goiter is often used to describe the condition of multiple growths. Goiter can also be used to describe a diffusely enlarged gland without a nodule. Majority of these nodules are asymptomatic, causing few minor or no symptoms at all in most people. Often nodules are detected when you doctor you undergo a test to determine the cause of an unrelated issue. In some cases, a primary care doctor may detect it during a routine physical exam. However, if the nodule is large enough and in the right spot, you may actually feel it or you may suffer from compressive symptoms. These include difficulty with swallowing, cough, voice changes, or even difficulty breathing.
How do I make sure that it is benign?
Once your doctor has positively identified the nodule, she will likely order a fine needle biopsy of the lesion. This can only be done with lesions that are more than 1 cm in size. You may have this done with the aid of an ultrasound or if the nodule can easily be felt, it can be biopsied without any image guidance. The needle used for this is quite small and the process is less painful than receiving an immunization or having an IV placed. After a few days, you should have your results. This process has proven to be accurate for all nodules that are under 4 cm in size. Any lesion greater than 4 cm, carries a higher rate of false negative results, thus it is recommended that these lesions be surgically removed for more accurate diagnosis.
What are my management options?
If your needle biopsy results are negative, we recommend repeating the ultrasound after six months to ensure that there has been no growth or change in the nodule. Growth or change in the character of the nodule at that time would necessitate a repeat biopsy. If the nodule is stable, you would just repeat the ultrasound in standard interval of time for continued monitoring. If the nodule is atypical, we usually recommend surgical removal to ensure that it is indeed benign. If the lesion is cancerous, we generally recommend removal of the entire gland. This often requires a one night stay in the hospital. However, our new minimally invasive techniques allow us to do this through an incision that is approximately two inches in length and hide well within a natural neck crease.
The Ear, Nose & Throat Specialty Care Center at Physicians Regional brings a comprehensive program of specialized ear, nose and throat care to patients of all ages. As leaders in our community, our board certified physicians are expertly trained and highly skilled and experienced to provide the most current and comprehensive diagnosis and treatments available. As a dedicated center, we are a “one-stop” for quality ENT care. For more information about thyroid nodules or other ENT conditions, please contact out office at (239) 348-4081 to schedule an appointment with a specialist today.
Leela Sanamme Lavasani, MD
Dr. Leela Lavasani earned her Doctor of Medicine from George Washington University, Washington, DC., in June 2006. Following receipt of her degree, she completed five years of otolaryngology residency training at Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, in June of 2011. Dr. Lavasani is Board Certified by the A.B. of Otolaryngology. Her goal is to provide each patient that she treats with compassion and quality care.