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What Are Thyroid Nodules?
A thyroid nodule is a small lump that develops on the thyroid gland. While most of these lumps do not pose any significant health risks, in some cases, the nodules may grow larger and begin to press against the windpipes. Cancer is present in fewer than 5% of all thyroid nodules. However, patients should still have nodules evaluated. Though not all nodules are noticeable, there are a few symptoms that may warrant a doctor’s appointment.
1. Trouble swallowing
One of the most common signs of a lump is difficulty swallowing. This occurs when the nodule has grown larger. Nodules can also grow in clusters, meaning that there may be more than one pressing against the neck.
2. A raspy voice
Growths on the thyroid can also cause an inexplicably raspy or hoarse voice. Some people may not notice this change immediately. As these lumps grow, however, some patients can experience difficulty breathing.
3. Neck pain
Thyroid nodules can cause neck pain. Rather, these growths may cause discomfort at the base of the throat. This is where the thyroid gland is located, just under the Adam’s apple. This gland produces hormones that help to regulate digestion, body temperature, and other essential functions.
4. Extra anxiety
In some cases, thyroid nodules can produce excess hormones, leading to symptoms of hyperthyroidism. Some of these symptoms manifest as extra anxiousness, such as a fluttering or fast-beating heart rate, nervousness, or difficulty sleeping. Hyperthyroidism can also cause unexplained weight loss.
When to seek help
Patients who are experiencing any of these symptoms should make an appointment with a healthcare provider. The primary goal of a neck mass biopsy is to make sure that the growth is not malignant. The doctor will also want to make sure that the thyroid is functioning properly. Doctors may recommend ultrasonography or a thyroid scan to assess the thyroid and nodules.
When do I need a biopsy?
In the majority of cases, healthcare providers use a fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy to make sure the growth is benign. During this procedure, the doctor uses a small needle to suction out a few cells for evaluation. If the growth is benign, there may not be a need to undergo surgery to remove the nodule. In some cases, patients may get medications to regulate the hormones produced by the thyroid. Patients who are experiencing any symptoms of a nodule should make an appointment with a healthcare provider.