Whether you have recently developed symptoms of a thyroid nodule or are looking for a second opinion about your thyroid nodule treatment options, Houston Sinus Surgery at the Yeung Institute is here to provide compassionate and expert care. With over 20 years of experience as a Head & Neck Surgeon in Houston, Cecil Yeung, MD., FACS. is dedicated to diagnosing and treating patients suffering from thyroid nodules (mass). If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of a thyroid nodule, contact our office right away to schedule a consultation with Dr. Yeung.
What is the thyroid?
The thyroid is a gland located in the lower part of the neck, below the Adam’s apple, where it wraps around the windpipe, also known as the trachea. It is shaped like a butterfly with two wings (called lobes) that are attached to one another by a middle part, called the isthmus. The thyroid plays an important role in regulating vital body functions. It makes and stores essential hormones that help regulate the heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and the rate at which food is converted into energy.
What are thyroid nodules?
Thyroid nodules are lumps full of fluid which commonly arise within an otherwise normal thyroid gland. You can develop a single thyroid nodule or multiple nodules. Nodules indicate a thyroid neoplasm, meaning a tumor of the thyroid, but only a small percentage of these are cancerous. Thyroid nodules are extremely common in young adults and children. In fact, almost 50% of people will experience one during their lifetime, but they are usually only detected by a doctor during the course of a routine medical examination, or because of a different affliction.
What causes thyroid nodules?
Thyroid nodules can result from a number of possible causes, including:
- Iodine deficiency
- Autoimmune disorders such as Graves’ disease or Hashimoto’s disease
- Thyroiditis (an inflammation of the thyroid)
- Thyroid cancer
What are the symptoms of thyroid nodules?
While the vast majority of thyroid nodules do not cause any symptoms, enlarged thyroid nodules may create some more noticeable symptoms. A large thyroid nodule can feel like a lump in the throat and it is possible that it can be felt or even seen in the neck. Depending on their size and positioning, thyroid nodules can press up against the windpipe, creating some other symptoms as well.
Thyroid nodules can also lead to a condition called hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), which means that the gland produces too much thyroid hormone. Alternatively, nodules can lead to a condition called hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), which means that the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough hormone for the body’s needs.
While symptoms of thyroid nodules differ based on the individual, symptoms may include:
- A feeling of tightness in your throat, which can cause difficulty swallowing or breathing
- A visible swelling at the base of your neck
- Sudden or unexplained weight change (with normal appetite)
- Nervousness or irritability
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Trouble sleeping
How are thyroid nodules treated?
If a nodule is found during a physical examination, your doctor will likely perform a number of non-invasive tests to diagnose the condition. In some cases, your doctor may refer you to an experienced ear, nose and throat doctor for complete diagnosis and treatment. Depending on your condition, Dr. Yeung may order blood tests, an ultrasound, a thyroid scan or a computed tomography (CT scan) in order to define the mass. The possibility of a nodule which leads to overproduction or underproduction of thyroid hormones is investigated by measuring thyroid hormone levels. Tests for serum thyroid autoantibodies are sometimes done as these may indicate autoimmune thyroid disorders.
A further test that is more reliable to determine whether the nodule is cancerous is called a fine needle biopsy. However, if the needle aspiration result is negative, false negative is not uncommon for certain malignant nodules. Therefore, to eliminate the possibility a thyroid mass being malignant, Dr. Yeung may recommend surgical removal.