Chances are good that the first time you heard about growths on your thyroid was after a routine medical exam. The doctor noted these nodules while manually checking the butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your neck.
It’s a common condition, estimated to affect about 50% of Americans by the time they reach the age of 60.
It’s normal to be concerned with any abnormal growth, but in the case of the thyroid, chances are that your nodules are harmless. Over 95% of the growths are non-cancerous, and even when a nodule is suspicious, it’s often simply monitored for further growth.
Until you get the all-clear, though, it’s important to follow up with regular checks. Even cancerous thyroid nodules are easy to treat, particularly when detected early.
Dr. Lee Reussner of Lawrence Otolaryngology Associates is a high-volume thyroid specialist, a surgeon with plenty of experience treating nodules using minimally invasive techniques to ensure effective procedures with the shortest recovery times.
Reasons for nodules
Thyroid nodules may be solid or fluid filled, and a number of conditions can cause their development.
Adenoma is one of the most common types of nodule, resulting from an overgrowth of thyroid tissue. This is a noncancerous growth and it usually isn’t serious unless it grows large enough to cause other symptoms.
Thyroid adenomas can sometimes cause hyperthyroidism, where the thyroid becomes overactive, producing more of a hormone called thyroxine.
Small, fluid-filled growths sometimes result from the breakdown of an adenoma, and these are called cysts. Often, the fluid filling the cyst is mixed with solids, which in rare cases could be cancerous.
An autoimmune disorder marked by chronic inflammation, Hashimoto’s disease can cause enlarged nodules. It’s typically associated with hypothyroidism, the underproduction of some thyroid hormones.
Few thyroid nodules are cancerous. If you have a hard, large nodule that is uncomfortable or painful, it’s advisable to check with a specialist at Lawrence Otolaryngology Associates for monitoring and treatment.
If thyroid nodules become symptomatic, they may affect the acts of swallowing or breathing if they grow large. Hyperthyroidism can change your metabolism, causing symptoms that include:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Heartbeat irregularities including racing and arrhythmia
- Mood changes such as irritability and anxiety
- Increased sweating
- Muscle weakness and fatigue
- Sleep disorders
- Dry, thinning skin
- Changes to hair texture
The older you are, the fewer symptoms you’re likely to have, and those you do notice may be mild or difficult to recognize.
Treating thyroid nodules
Your treatment depends on the type of nodule you have and the symptoms it causes. Radioactive iodine treatments can address hyperthyroidism while also shrinking nodules, though this is not advised for pregnant women.
Surgery is often chosen for suspicious or cancerous nodules, or when a large nodule interferes with breathing or eating. Minimally invasive and noninvasive treatments are often chosen to keep your recovery time short.
Chances are that your thyroid nodule is harmless, and any problems it causes are easy to correct. Monitoring is still important, however, so contact Lawrence Otolaryngology Associates by calling the nearest office in Lawrence or Ottawa when you need expert care.