Is Your Thyroid In Trouble?

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck. This gland regulates the way the body uses energy from food and is part of the endocrine system. Thyroids process the hormones behind body temperature, burn calories, and even control the heart rate. From time to time, lumps on the thyroid can develop called thyroid nodules. Nodules are pretty standard. Over 50% of Americans develop thyroid nodules by age 60.

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Look for these thyroid nodule symptoms

Most cases of thyroid nodules are not life-threatening. In fact, only 5% are reported to be cancerous. Most go unnoticed, and patients generally do not know of a thyroid nodule until advised by a doctor. Thyroid nodules cause swelling in the neck area, difficulty swallowing, and difficulty breathing due to pressing against the windpipe. There are a few causes of thyroid nodules, but these 3 are the most common.

1. Possible tissue overgrowth

Most thyroid nodules are adenomas which are an overgrowth of the actual thyroid tissue. Scientists aren’t entirely sure why this happens, but the overgrowths are not cancerous or fatal. The growths could sometimes form to the point where the nodules can cause discomfort. In some cases, the growth can cause hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism is an overactive thyroid that produces excessive hormone thyroxine.

2. Cysts on your thyroid

As the thyroid growths degenerate, sac-like lumps can form called cysts. Some cysts create fluid-filled cavities called simple cysts. Cavities mixed in with solid particles are complex cysts. These are also non-cancerous and vary in size. The cysts are surgically removed if a patient’s quality of life is at risk.

3. Is it Hashimoto’s disease?

Chronic inflammation is a common cause of thyroid nodules, also called Hashimoto’s disease. Hashimoto’s disease is hereditary and primarily affects women. The inflammation can affect the function of the thyroid. Hashimoto’s disease can cause hypothyroidism symptoms such as weight gain, fatigue, and cold body temperature.

Thyroids and neck mass biopsies

Some thyroid nodules are treatable without surgery. Still, a doctor can only know for sure with an ultrasound and a neck mass biopsy. A biopsy is a sample of tissue removed to determine if further treatment is necessary. The doctor will perform the biopsy using a fine needle in a quick, outpatient procedure. A lab then examines the mass under a microscope and provides a detailed report.

Here’s when you’ll need a biopsy

The primary reason for a neck mass biopsy is to check for cancer. Another reason could be if other tests, like blood tests or CT scans, were inconclusive. If a thyroid nodule is cancerous and detected early, a surgeon can safely remove the mass. Thyroid cancer is one of the most treatable cancers, and the growth is terminated before the cancerous cells further populate.

Don’t ignore the signs

Look for symptoms like discomfort in the throat area, swelling, or weight loss. If these signs are ongoing, seek assistance from a doctor right away. Thyroid nodules are treatable through non-surgical means such as anti-thyroid medications, beta-blockers, and radioactive iodine. However, there are cases where a biopsy is needed to scan for cancer. A biopsy could be life-saving, clearing up those nodules for good. For more information, speak with a healthcare provider.

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