Growths that develop in the thyroid gland, which are usually noncancerous
Thyroid nodules are abnormal growths that develop in the thyroid gland. They are generally small and occur as single or multiple solid lumps or cysts. Some nodules produce excess thyroid hormones (see Hyperthyroidism). All types of thyroid nodule are most common in people between the ages of 40 and 60 and are three times more common in women than in men.
Nodules may cause no symptoms, but some people may develop the following:
Lump or swelling in the neck.
Difficulty in swallowing or breathing.
If nodules cause hyperthyroidism, additional symptoms may develop, such as rapid heartbeat and loss of weight.
Imaging of the thyroid gland with ultrasound scanning or radionuclide scanning may be necessary to diagnose a thyroid nodule. Needle aspiration of the thyroid gland may be carried out to establish whether a nodule is a solid lump or a cyst or if it is cancerous. If the nodule is cancerous, further investigation and treatment are necessary (see Thyroid cancer).
Noncancerous thyroid nodules that do not cause symptoms may not require treatment but should be monitored on a regular basis. Radioactive iodine will be used to treat a nodule that secretes excess thyroid hormones (see Drugs for hyperthyroidism).
From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.