First, what are thyroid nodules? Are they rare?
A thyroid nodule is simply an unusual lump of thyroid cells in the thyroid gland.
They are extremely common! Multiple research studies indicate that if you performed an ultrasound of everyone’s neck, you could find a thyroid nodule in as many as half the people.
Also, it’s important to remember that nodules are frequently harmless and not indicators of cancer. This informs your thyroid nodule treatment: since most thyroid nodules do not cause any problems or symptoms, it’s important to identify which ones need more attention.
I have a thyroid nodule–what’s next?
Once a nodule is suspected, we usually get an ultrasound of the thyroid first. Though a radiologist typically performs this, it can also be done by your endocrinologist or surgeon. The ultrasound shows the nodule in detail and gives important information about its size, shape, and relation to surrounding tissue. This information allows the physician to decide if the nodule appears totally harmless (benign) or needs further workup.
What is a biopsy? Do I need one?
If the nodule meets certain criteria for concern based on its size and appearance, it may need to be biopsied. The biopsy is performed using a technique called fine needle aspiration (FNA), where the skin over the thyroid is numbed and a tiny needle is inserted through the skin (usually with ultrasound guidance) into the thyroid nodule. The cells that are collected from the biopsy are then analyzed by a pathologist who will tell us if the nodule appears benign, cancerous, or somewhere in between.
Interpreting the results of the FNA can become complicated due to the “in between” stages, so having a knowledgeable clinician to guide you through the process is important.
Do I need to have my thyroid nodule removed?
After you have the results of the biopsy, your doctor will discuss the treatment options with you. If surgery is recommended, it may involve removing half the thyroid (lobectomy) or removing the entire gland (total thyroidectomy).
Thyroid nodule treatment: how can UT’s “Dream Team” help?
Prior to proceeding with surgery, it is important that you understand the risks of surgery and the expected benefits. As your surgeon, I will take the time to explain this to you until you feel comfortable and your questions have been answered. This is where having a surgeon who is not only experienced with head and neck surgery, but also communicates well with you, is critical.
Simply put: if you need thyroid nodule treatment in the Memphis-area, look no further! There’s world class treatment in your hometown–and we’d love to help.