What is a Goitre?

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Goitre is a general term that refers to a lump or swelling in your thyroid gland. It can happen for many different reasons, some of which require urgent treatment, so it needs to be investigated with a physical examination, thyroid ultrasound scan or other tests.

Your Thyroid Gland

The thyroid is a small gland that sits in your neck, just in front of your windpipe. It is responsible for producing hormones that help to regulate your metabolism. Sometimes the thyroid gland can become swollen or develop a lump. This is often known as a goitre.

Types of Goitre

Some kinds of goitre are harmless, but others may require treatment. In some cases, a lump on your thyroid gland could even be caused by cancer. Other possible causes can include an overactive or underactive thyroid gland, an iodine deficiency, or changes associated with the menopause or pregnancy. If you have an enlarged thyroid gland, your doctor may recommend a thyroid ultrasound scan or other tests to work out what is wrong.

Diagnosing the Cause

Your doctor can work out which of these is causing the problem by examining your thyroid, performing thyroid function tests, or using a thyroid ultrasound scan to check the size, position and composition of a thyroid lump. The scan can reveal whether you have a fluid filled cyst or nodule, which could be harmless, or a solid lump that may needed to be checked in case it is cancerous.

Treatment for Goitre

If the investigations show that the goitre is small and harmless, you might not need to have any treatment. A small nodule may simply go away by itself. In other cases, there might be an underlying problem, such as an overactive thyroid or a problem with your diet, that needs to be addressed. Sometimes, a large or potentially cancerous lump may need to be removed surgically.