If your doctor has suggested getting thyroid ultrasound to check on growths in your thyroid gland, then you might want to learn more about thyroid nodules.
Causes of Thyroid Nodules
A thyroid nodule is a lump that forms inside the thyroid gland. The thyroid is the gland in your neck that produces some important hormones. The lumps can be solid or filled with fluid and they can form for different reasons. Most thyroid nodules are harmless, but there is a chance that a lump in your thyroid could be cancer.
Thyroid nodules can develop for many different reasons. A lump in your thyroid could be due to:
- Iodine deficiency
- Chronic inflammation
- Overgrowth of the normal thyroid tissue (also known as thyroid adenoma)
- Fluid-filled cysts (which are often thyroid adenomas that are degenerating)
- Thyroid cancer
Symptoms of Thyroid Nodules
Most people won’t notice any symptoms when they have a thyroid nodule as the lumps are usually small and harmless. However, if the lump grows big enough then it can begin to cause problems. You might:
- Be able to feel a lump in the thyroid, which is at the base of your neck
- See some swelling in your neck
- Have problems swallowing if the lump is pressing against your oesophagus
- Experience shortness of breath if the lump is pressing against your windpipe
Some thyroid nodules can produce extra thyroid hormones, which can travel around your body causing various effects. This is known as an overactive thyroid or hyperthyroidism and it can cause:
- Heart palpitations
- Feelings of anxiety
- Sweating more than usual
- Unexplained weight loss
If you notice any of these signs then you should see a doctor.
How Are Thyroid Nodules Diagnosed?
When you see a doctor about a thyroid problem, you will need tests to check on your thyroid function and to determine what kind of thyroid nodule you have. You might have:
- Physical examination to check for lumps and swelling. You’ll usually be asked to swallow while the doctor examines your throat.
- Blood tests to check the levels of thyroid hormones.
- Thyroid ultrasounds to look for any unusual growths and to find out if they are solid or fluid filled.
- Biopsy to take a sample from the growths with a fine needle. The sample will be checked in the lab to see if the cells are cancerous.
- Thyroid scan using radioactive dyes to visualise the thyroid.
Treatments for Thyroid Nodules
Once we’ve performed the thyroid ultrasound and you’ve had any additional tests, your doctor will be able to recommend the right treatment plan. The best approach will depend on the type of thyroid nodule you have and how it’s affecting you.
If the nodules are harmless and not causing any problems then it may be enough to monitor them to ensure nothing changes. If you have a large nodule or it’s causing problems, then you might need medication to shrink it or to reduce the effects if you have hyperthyroidism. Sometimes it is necessary to remove the nodule surgically if it’s causing severe symptoms or it is cancerous.
Getting your thyroid ultrasound at the Cardiac Screen clinic will ensure that you get the right treatment for your thyroid nodules.