Thyroid Nodules

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What are the symptoms of a thyroid nodule?

Some people do not have any symptoms. They might find out that they have a thyroid nodule when their doctor or nurse feels it during a routine exam. Or a doctor might find nodules on an imaging test that was done for another condition. (Imaging tests create pictures of the inside of the body.)

Other people have symptoms. For example, they might feel or see a lump in their neck. Or they have symptoms from having too much thyroid hormone, such as:

  • Feeling worried, upset, or having trouble sleeping
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Having a fast heartbeat
  • Having frequent bowel movements

Will I have tests?

Yes. Your doctor will want to make sure that the thyroid nodule is not a threat to your health. Tests usually include blood tests and an imaging test of the thyroid called an ultrasound. Sometimes, people need more tests. These include:

  • Fine needle aspiration – For this test, a doctor uses a thin needle to remove a small sample of tissue from the thyroid nodule. Then another doctor looks at the tissue under a microscope.
  • Thyroid scan – People get this test only if they have too much thyroid hormone in the body. For this test, a person gets a pill or a shot with a small amount of a radioactive substance. Then, a special camera takes a picture of the thyroid gland. This test is not safe for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

How are thyroid nodules treated?

Thyroid nodules are treated in different ways, depending on their cause and how much thyroid hormone is in the body. Different treatments include:

  • Watching and waiting – Doctors don’t always treat thyroid nodules right away. A doctor might watch a thyroid nodule if it is small and doesn’t look serious. But he or she will follow it closely to see if it grows bigger or needs to be treated.
  • Medicines – Doctors can shrink thyroid nodules using thyroid hormone medicines. If you take thyroid hormone medicines, your doctor or nurse will check your thyroid hormone levels on a regular basis.
  • Radioactive iodine – Radioactive iodine comes in a pill or liquid that you swallow. It has a small amount of radiation and can destroy a lot of the thyroid gland. It is used only to treat nodules that make too much thyroid hormone. It is not safe for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Surgery to remove the thyroid nodule
  • A procedure to drain fluid from the thyroid nodule, if it is filled with fluid

What if I want to get pregnant?

If you want to get pregnant, talk with your doctor or nurse. Women who are pregnant should not be treated with radioactive iodine. That’s because radioactive iodine can cause serious harm to a baby. If a woman is treated with radioactive iodine, she needs to wait at least 6 months before trying to get pregnant. That way, her doctor can make sure that her nodule is no longer making too much thyroid hormone.

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