A thyroid nodule is a growth on your thyroid gland of varying size, sometimes big, sometimes undetectable to the human eye. You may discover just one nodule or several, though neither is necessarily cause for panic. Most times, thyroid nodules are not harmful, will not cause symptoms and do not require treatment. Furthermore, about 85% of thyroid nodules are non-cancerous.
WHAT IS A THYROID GLAND?
The thyroid gland is made up of two lobes connected by a small tissue bridge called the isthmus. It is located on each side of your windpipe, above the breastbone in the front of the neck near the voice box. It is controlled by the pituitary, which can be found at the base of the brain.
The thyroid is essential for maintaining balance in your endocrine system, which controls your metabolism. It helps energy production and even controls functions of the brain, skin, hair, eyes, heart, intestines and nerve development. Also, hormones produced by your thyroid enter your tissue and control how certain proteins are produced or not produced.
WHAT DO I DO IF I HAVE A THYROID NODULE?
You should call Dr. Shuaib’s office to set up an appointment if you begin to display symptoms such as:
- Difficulty Swallowing
- Intense pressure located in the neck region
- Painless lump(s) in the neck region
- Hoarse voice
- Irregular breathing patterns
- Persistent cough
The lumps you may feel are called goiters. They are a reaction to the thyroid nodules that make your thyroid become enlarged.
In more severe, untreated cases, your thyroid may begin working at a heightened pace. This can lead to hyperthyroidism. This will essentially accelerate your metabolism, which can lead to weight loss and/or cardiac issues. In less frequent cases, the nodules may be a tumor and will require immediate action from your ENT physician.
Cancerous thyroid tumors occur more frequently in patients who have undergone head, neck or chest radiation. It can also happen in people with a hereditary predisposition. There are ways to determine if the nodules are potentially cancerous. Things to look for include:
- The nodule is not filled with a fluid, but is solid and hard
- There is only one nodule instead of several
- The nodule grew very fast
- Your thyroid is not functioning properly
HOW DO YOU DIAGNOSE THIS CONDITION?
During your evaluation, Dr. Shuaib may perform a series of tests on your thyroid to determine if you are suffering from thyroid nodules. This diagnosis may entail:
- Ultrasound Scan
- Blood test
- Fine Needle Aspiration Biopsy (FNA) to collect thyroid cells to determine if there cancer cells
WHAT ARE MY TREATMENT OPTIONS?
If the results come back positive for thyroid nodules, there are several options to consider. Sometimes, it may be best to simply wait and see. If the nodules do not grow any further, more extensive treatment may be avoided. Anti-thyroid medications may be prescribed, especially if you are suffering from hyperthyroidism. Another alternative is Radioactive Iodine Therapy.
Finally, if cancerous cells occur, Dr. Shuaib will suggest a surgical procedure as a last line of defense. Known as a Thyroidectomy, this procedure will remove the affected thyroid tissue under general anesthesia in an outpatient surgical center. This procedure is generally 1-3 hours depending on the severity, and patients can expect to return to regular routines within a week.
Because thyroid nodules are not visible without advanced detection, you need to set up an appointment with a trained professional like Dr. Shuaib. He will help diagnose your symptoms and determine the most appropriate treatment plan.
Dr. Stefan Shuaib is one of the top head and neck surgeons in Texas and provides on-site diagnosis and treatment in the Rio Grande Valley. If you are concerned about any changes or symptoms you have been experiencing, it is important to schedule an appointment with Dr. Shuaib by calling (956) 362-8125.