Thyroid Nodules

General questions and answers about thyroid nodules

  • What are thyroid nodules?
    • A thyroid nodule is an abnormal growth of thyroid cells within the thyroid gland. Most of the time the cause is unknown.
  • How common are thyroid nodules?
    • Thyroid nodules are very common in the general population. 50 to 70 percent of adults have thyroid nodules and the incidence increases with age. Most thyroid nodules do not produce any symptoms and go undetected.
  • If I have a nodule, do I have to be concerned about cancer?
    • The majority (90 - 95 percent) of thyroid nodules are benign – meaning they do not contain any cancer cells.
  • How can my nodules(s) be evaluated?
    • The best test for evaluating the thyroid is a dedicated thyroid and neck ultrasound by an experienced radiologist, endocrine surgeon, and/or endocrinologist. Many times a fine needle aspiration biopsy of the nodule will be performed for further evaluation.
  • Do all thyroid nodules need to be surgically removed?
    • No. There are two main reasons why your endocrinologist or surgeon will recommend surgery for thyroid nodules.
    1. Concern for cancer or an “indeterminate” biopsy (see Thyroid cancer section)
    2. You are experiencing obstructive symptoms from a very large nodule(s) such as trouble breathing when you lie flat or trouble swallowing solid foods.
  • Is there another treatment besides surgery for thyroid nodules?
    • No. Studies have shown that medication does not shrink thyroid nodules.