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Test: Needle Aspiration of the Thyroid Gland

Needle aspiration of the thyroid gland is used to determine the cause of a lump and, if the lump is a cyst, to drain it. During the procedure, cells are removed from the abnormal area using a fine hollow needle attached to a syringe. Ultrasound guidance may be used if a lump is inaccessible. The sample is then examined in a laboratory for cancerous cells. This procedure is safe and almost painless and can be carried out in an outpatient clinic.

Taking a sample

A pillow is placed under your neck to raise the thyroid area. The doctor withdraws cells from the abnormal area using a syringe with a fine needle.

Inside the neck


Cancerous thyroid cells

Abnormal thyroid cells obtained using needle aspiration are viewed through a microscope in the laboratory by a specialist. These cells, taken from an abnormal lump, are cancerous.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

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