Thyroid nodules are often discovered as part of routine physical examinations when the doctor feel a patient’s neck and asks her to swallow. In other cases, especially when a person is thin, he will notice a lump in the front of his neck when tying his necktie or shaving or a family member or friend who knows him well may point it out Since thyroid nodules, abnormal growths of thyroid tissue, often occur on the edge of the thyroid gland, it is even possible for a person to feel a lump in his throat when swallowing. No matter how a person becomes aware of the growth, and while it need not be an occasion for alarm, he or she should see an endocrinologist.
Treatments for Thyroid Nodules
An endocrinologist treats hormonal imbalances in endocrine glands, a group to which the thyroid belongs. His first step will be to palpate it, and if he decides it is indeed a thyroid nodule, will then prescribe a baseline ultrasound to determine its size and shape. Meanwhile he will have the patient undergo a blood test to find out the level of hormone being secreted by the thyroid to make sure it is within normal range.
If the ultrasound reveals the nodule to be larger than one centimeter, he will prescribe a fine needle aspiration biopsy. A fine needle biopsy is a safe, relatively non-invasive way to determine whether a nodule is cancerous or a benign. After administering a local anesthetic to the neck in the area of the nodule. Once it is numb, a very thin needle is inserted through the neck and into the nodule to obtain a tissue sample to be examined under a microscope to determine if the cells have taken on the characteristics of cancer cells.
If the biopsy reveals it to be one of the 5% that are cancerous, surgery will be highly recommended to remove not only the nodule but the lobe on which it is growing. If it is one of the 95% that are benign, the endocrinologist will continue to monitor the patient at regularly scheduled intervals and prescribe yearly ultrasounds.He may also prescribe thyroid hormone suppression therapy which involves taking a daily pill containing synthetic thyroid hormone. The underlying theory is that supplying additional thyroid hormone will send a signal to the pituitary gland to decrease the level of thyroid stimulating hormone it is producing since TSH is widely believed to be the cause of nodules. At the very least, taking synthetic hormone should stop its growth, and at the best, cause it to shrink.
Should the nodule continue to grow, the next step is to surgically remove it and the lobe of the thyroid on which it is located. The lobe will be biopsied and if, as in most cases, is found to be benign, other than having to take thyroid hormones for the rest of his life along with regular visits to her endocrinologist, the patient’s nodule problem should be over. If thyroid cancer is revealed, in most cases, taking one radioactive iodine pill several weeks later kills the cancer
Incidence of Thyroid Nodules
Thyroid nodules are really quite common. One in twelve young women has a thyroid nodule and one in forty young men. Whether it is detected or not. most people have one by the time they reach fifty and the likelihood increases with age. 50& of fifty year olds will have at least one, 60% of sixty year olds and 70% of seventy year olds. With the expected lifespan of Americans continue to increase, research in endocrinology will continue to find new ways of managing this common condition in Las Vegas.