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Thyroid Nodules

Thyroid Cyst
Multiple Cysts (Colloid)
Hot Nodule
Thyroid Adenoma
Thyroid Cancer
Investigations which may be used to tell the doctor whether the lump needs treated or not

You have been found to have a swelling on the thyroid gland. This pamphlet aims to give you some background information to the condition, its causes and treatment options.

The thyroid gland is located in the neck. Its role is to release thyroid hormones which power the cells of the body.

Thyroid nodules are swellings or lumps in the gland, which do not usually interfere with the normal activity of the gland. The symptoms are due to the lump itself, which may cause discomfort, or press on the gullet behind, causing swallowing difficulties. Very rarely a lump may also press on the windpipe causing breathing difficulties. Most patients however only notice the lump incidentally, it is too small to cause symptoms.

There are however several types of nodule.

1.    Thyroid Cyst.

This is just a fluid filled swelling, which is of no significance. It can be drained by sticking a needle into it and withdrawing the fluid. If it recurs several times then surgery may be needed.

2. Multiple Cysts (Colloid)

This is a collection of many small cysts, and is of no importance. If very large it may require surgery to remove it.

3.    Hot Nodule

This is a small part of the thyroid gland which is working independently from the rest of the gland. If it is producing excess thyroid hormone it is known as a ‘hot nodule’ and this may cause ‘hyperthyroidism’ (see separate information sheet). It needs to be treated like other causes of hyperthyroidism with drugs, radioactive iodine or surgery.

4.    Thyroid Adenoma

This is a benign growth. Surgical removal is usually advised because there is a small risk it could become malignant in the future. It can be forgotten about once it has been removed.

5.     Thyroid Cancer

There are various forms of thyroid cancers, but the majority of them are slow growing with a relatively good outcome after treatment. Some are readily curable. Treatment would require surgery and often high dose radioactive iodine.

Investigations which may be used to tell the doctor whether the lump needs treated or not

a)    Blood tests – these are important to check whether the gland is working normally.

b)    X-ray and Ultrasound – these are painless and provide pictures of the gland, the lump and the tissue around the gland.

c)    Radioisotope Scan – This provides a picture of the thyroid lump but also gives an indication whether the lump is making lots of thyroid hormone (‘hot nodule’) or none at all (‘cold nodule’).

d)    Fine needle aspiration – this is usually the most helpful investigation. The needle which is used is the same size as that used for blood tests (i.e. quite small!) and is passed into the lump. If the lump is solid then cells from the lump are removed, and examined carefully under a microscope. If the lump is a cyst, then the fluid can be removed.

Hopefully you have found the information in this pamphlet useful, but please remember that your Consultant or General Practitioner is always prepared to answer any further concerns you may have.

There is a patient organisation called the British Thyroid Foundation: if you are interested, please ask for a leaflet at your next hospital visit or contact British Thyroid Foundation, PO Box 97, Clifford, Wetherby, West Yorkshire  LS23 6XD. http://www.btf-thyroid.org

The British Thyroid Foundation has recently joined Thyroid Federation International, 96 Mack Street, Kingston, Ontario, Canada K7L 1N9.  The website can be found at   http://www.thyroid-fed.org

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NHS Tayside; 2006; version 1.0

Disclaimer; no liability whatsoever is accepted for information given and all such information, especially with regard to drug usage (UK version provided), must be checked with a person’s health provider.