Thyroid nodules are solid or fluid-filled lumps that form within your thyroid, a small gland located at the base of your neck, just above your breastbone.
The great majority of thyroid nodules aren't serious and don't cause symptoms. Thyroid cancer accounts for a small percentage of thyroid nodules.
You often won't know you have a thyroid nodule until your doctor discovers it during a routine medical exam. Some thyroid nodules, however, may become large enough to press on your windpipe, making it uncomfortable or difficult to swallow.
Treatment options depend on the type of thyroid nodule that you have.
Most thyroid nodules don't cause signs or symptoms. Occasionally, however, some nodules become so large that they can:
In some cases, thyroid nodules produce additional thyroxine, a hormone secreted by your thyroid gland. The extra thyroxine can cause problems such as:
A few thyroid nodules are cancerous (malignant) but it's difficult to tell which nodules are malignant by symptoms alone. Although size isn't a predictor of whether a nodule is malignant or not, cancerous thyroid tumors are more likely to be large fixed masses that grow quickly.
When to see a doctor
Also seek medical care if you develop signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism, such as:
Several conditions can cause one or more nodules to develop in your thyroid gland:
Your thyroid gland is located at the base of your neck in the front, just above your breastbone. ...
Complications associated with thyroid nodules include:
Preparing for your appointment
If you see or feel a thyroid nodule yourself — usually in the middle of your lower neck, just above your breastbone — call your primary care doctor for an appointment to evaluate the lump.
Often, thyroid nodules are discovered when you're already at your doctor's office during a routine medical exam. Sometimes a thyroid nodule is detected when you have an imaging test, such as an ultrasound, CT or MRI scan, to evaluate another condition in your head or neck. Nodules detected this way are usually smaller than those found during a physical exam.
Once a thyroid nodule has been detected, you're likely to be referred to an endocrinologist — a doctor who specializes in endocrine disorders. To help you get the most from your appointment, try these suggestions:
Tests and diagnosis
In assessing a lump or nodule in your neck, one of your doctor's main goals is to rule out the possibility of cancer. But your doctor will also want to know if your thyroid is functioning properly. Tests include:
Treatments and drugs
Treatment depends on the type of thyroid nodule you have.
Treating benign nodules
Treating nodules that cause hyperthyroidism
Treating cancerous nodules
Last Updated: 2011-02-22
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