A nodule on the thyroid can be a cause for worry in many individuals. While nodules on the thyroid are all too common, you can never be certain.
If you are here on such account, we have you covered. Find out if your concerns are legit and find the answers to your common questions on thyroid nodules here!
Nodule on the Thyroid Causes, Symptoms, and Other FAQs
What Is a Nodule on the Thyroid?
Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped organ located in your throat. Its cells form into a lump of tissue.
A thyroid nodule or nodules are abnormal lumps forming within your thyroid. These lumps are either solid, fluid-filled, cystic, or both.
You can have one or multiple thyroid nodules.
How Common Is a Nodule on the Thyroid?
Half of the people aged 60 are at risk of nodules on the thyroid. This nodular condition is detected in 1-2% of men and 6% in women.
Thyroid nodules are very common and occur more often in older people.
What Are the Thyroid Nodules Causes?
The causes of a nodule on the thyroid are not known in general, even though they are common. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, a common cause of hypothyroidism, causes some form of thyroid nodules.
Iron deficiency also increases the risk of thyroid nodules. Too much iodine in hyperthyroidism also causes thyroid nodules.
What Are the Symptoms of Thyroid Nodules?
People concerned with thyroid nodules ask this question often, but thyroid nodules have no symptoms. It is only when you start noticing an abnormal lump that you must be concerned with.
Beyond that, there is no way of telling for yourself if you have thyroid nodules. A painful lump in the throat related to thyroid nodule is even rare.
How Do I Know I Have Thyroid Nodules?
Since thyroid nodules do not exhibit symptoms, self-examination and a doctor’s confirmation will determine if you have thyroid nodules. To better assess your condition, you can take these tests:
- A thyroid scan
- An ultrasound of the thyroid
- A thyroid-stimulating hormone test or TSH test
- A biopsy or fine-needle aspiration or FNA
What Are the Complications of a Nodule on the Thyroid?
- Health issues linked to thyroid cancer – When your thyroid is removed through surgery, you’ll take thyroid hormone for a lifetime. This treatment might be the best option to keep your thyroid hormones functioning and balanced, but the problems associated with thyroid cancer may develop if your body does not respond well to the medication.
- Hyperthyroidism – This is when your thyroid is overactive. It may cause:
- Heat intolerance
- Bone and muscle weakness
- Weight loss
- Irregular heartbeat
- Breathing or swallowing problems – A nodule on the thyroid or multiple nodules can disrupt food and airway.
Can Thyroid Nodules Cause Weight Gain?
Thyroid nodules do not cause weight gain per se. If the symptoms of hyperthyroidism cause the thyroid nodules, the thyroid nodules or the whole thyroid needs to be removed.
The side effects of the procedure include weight gain.
When Should You Worry About Thyroid Nodules?
Here’s the good news — 99% of nodules on the thyroid are benign or not cancerous. You can let your hair down.
While the risks that a thyroid nodule is cancerous are slim, these risk factors are linked to malignant nodules:
- The risk is greater when you are more than 50 years old.
- The risk is three times greater in women at reproductive age.
- Prognosis is worse in men.
- There is a positive history of thyroid cancer in the family.
- There is a positive history of endocrine cancers in the family.
- You have larger thyroid nodules.
- You have a hoarse voice from the nodules or vocal cord paralysis.
- There is radiation exposure history.
- A single nodule has a higher risk to be cancerous than multiple nodules.
How Big Must the Thyroid Nodule Need to Be Removed?
Any nodules bigger than a centimeter shall undergo a biopsy to identify if it is malignant. If a thyroid nodule is malignant or cancerous, it needs to be treated asap.
At 4 cm, a benign thyroid nodule must be removed.
What Are the Treatment Options for a Non-cancerous Nodule on the Thyroid?
For those whose thyroid nodules and function are normal, ultrasounds and periodic physical examinations are necessary to observe if the nodules are not changing. But, when the size or characteristic changes, repeated biopsies may be needed.
Benign biopsies can be reassuring and correct 98% of the time, but they are not 100% right. This is why continued monitoring is necessary.
Others may be prescribed with thyroid hormone supplements to possibly decrease the size of the nodes or prevent their growth. When the nodes cause anxiety, continued growth, or signs and symptoms, doctors may offer surgery as a treatment option.
If your thyroid is overactive, surgery or radioactive iodine therapy are options. Other patients may use medications.
What Are the Treatment Options for a Cancerous Nodule on the Thyroid?
Doctors may suggest surgery for nodules that may be cancerous on biopsy. Common thyroid cancers may be:
- Follicular thyroid carcinoma
- Hurthle cell carcinoma
- Well-differentiated thyroid cancer
- Papillary thyroid carcinoma
- Medullary thyroid carcinoma
For well-differentiated thyroid cancer, radioactive iodine therapy may be important after surgery to treat residual cancer or kill the remaining thyroid tissue.
Medullary thyroid carcinoma may also need surgery but with considerations. This cancer type is sometimes related to an adrenal tumor in some patients that must be excluded before undergoing thyroid surgery,
It also runs in the family for some, so certain genetic testing may be necessary.
Although most results may show cancerous or non-cancerous, there are cases where some results show as being indeterminate. This means doctors cannot decide whether the case is benign or malignant from the biopsy alone.
To help physicians determine the severity of the condition, surgery or repetition of biopsy may be important.
How Long Do Thyroid Biopsy Results Take?
It depends on whether the biopsy or radiology center has an on-site cell pathologist. A biopsy or a fine-needle aspiration takes a sample from a patient.
If a pathologist in unavailable, the sample is taken to the nearest center with an available pathologist. This takes months.
Where an on-site pathologist is present, he or she conducts the tests as soon as they extract the samples.
Are There Any Other Types of Tests That Can Help in the Evaluation of a Nodule on the Thyroid?
Yes, there are new tests that monitor the genes of your thyroid nodules’ DNA. Researchers are continuing to develop these tests and give information on whether cancer is present in the thyroid.
The tests are also beneficial when the biopsy results are indeterminate. Specialized blood tests are also available that can help with the evaluation of the nodule on the thyroid.
You can avail of these tests at specialized medical centers. Ask your doctor about these tests for further assistance.
What Can I Do to Avoid Thyroid Nodules?
There is no way to avoid and prevent thyroid nodules. Since there are no symptoms, you only need to listen to your body, especially your thyroid.
You may wonder, too, if you need to take tests if you feel you have thyroid nodules. Experts argue whether you need tests outright if you suspect thyroid nodules.
Talk this out with your doctor for some expert advice. Also, make a habit of self-examining your neck.
What Causes Thyroid Nodules to Shrink?
Depending on your case, thyroid nodules can shrink. It can either be by natural means or by medical procedures.
For benign thyroid nodules, you can treat or shrink the nodules with natural means. The most common means are thyroid-friendly diet and thyroid supplements.
Surgery or thyroidectomy and radioactive iodine are medical procedures your doctor advises you to undergo for certain cases.
What Is the Difference Between a Goiter and a Nodule?
Goiter is the general term for the abnormal enlargement of the thyroid gland, and it can appear as inflammation in the front of the neck. When your thyroid becomes overactive or underactive, it can grow larger.
The enlargement may also be a result of multiple nodes on the thyroid. The difference lies in the cause of the inflammation of the organ, but the effect appears the same.
What Are Multinodular Thyroid and Multinodular Goiter?
When the thyroid contains multiple nodules, the condition is called multinodular thyroid. In general, there is no clear distinction between the two conditions because toxic multinodular goiter has small tiny nodules sometimes.
When Should You Visit a Doctor?
It’s essential to see your doctor when you’re experiencing symptoms of the condition like pressure or inflammation on the neck, especially if you have difficulty swallowing or breathing. If you’re experiencing hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism symptoms, it’s also best to see your doctor.
Are There Side Effects to Thyroid Nodule Treatment?
Radioiodine treatment may cause discomfort or sore feeling in the front of the neck after the therapy. The treatment may also cause the thyroid function to become underactive in some cases, and those who experience this may take lifetime tablets that can compensate for the missing thyroid hormones.
It’s also crucial for patients who took the treatment to keep a distance from pregnant women and children to keep them from radiation exposure. Women who plan to get pregnant should allow a period up to six months after treatment to remove radiation from their system.
There can also be some risks of anesthesia and surgery that must be discussed with your doctor. One rare side effect is the damage to the laryngeal nerve that runs in the neck near the thyroid gland, which can change your voice.
The parathyroid glands attached to the thyroid gland can be injured as well during surgery. When this happens, your doctor may prescribe you with vitamin D and calcium as it can cause hypoparathyroidism, which can affect your bones.
Hypoparathyroidism Definition: A state where the parathyroid glands decrease hormone production or activity triggering a low calcium state
In some cases, one parathyroid gland can be preserved. Your doctor should discuss this with you before surgery.
If you’re taking a thyroid hormone tablet such as carbimazole, it can reduce the number of white blood cells in your body as a side effect, but this is a rare case. If you’re experiencing high temperatures or sore throat while taking this tablet, you should visit your doctor.
Every case of a thyroid issue is different for every individual. Knowing more about a nodule on the thyroid helps you relate to your own.
Make a record of your own experience and what you feel. List the questions that might arise from reading this article.
You can better explain your case with your doctor when you have basic knowledge about your case. This way, you go hand in hand with the diagnosis and treatment of any thyroid problem you have or which may occur.
Do you suspect a nodule on the thyroid gland? Which symptoms are you experiencing? Let us know in the comments section below!
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on April 30, 2018, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.