You could be walking around with a thyroid nodule – a solid bump or fluid-filled lump in the thyroid gland at the base of the neck – and not even know it. They don’t cause symptoms and are very common. Fortunately, most thyroid nodules aren’t cause for alarm, as only a small percentage are cancerous.
Women are five times more likely than men to develop this thyroid disorder, which is normally discovered during a routine exam with your primary care doctor or during an unrelated ultrasound or CT scan.
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What Does the Thyroid Do?
Your thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland located inside your neck. A healthy thyroid produces hormones that regulate important bodily functions, including those that help the body use energy, stay warm, and keep the brain, heart, muscles, and other organs functioning properly.
How Do You Evaluate Thyroid Nodules?
Philip A. Pollice, MD, an otolaryngologist at Metropolitan ENT Associates—UPMC, walks us through what happens after finding a thyroid nodule. When a thyroid bump is identified, an ultrasound is used to evaluate the size and characteristics of the nodule in a noninvasive way. “It’s a painless procedure that gives us a great deal of information,” notes Dr. Pollice.
A nodule that is larger than half an inch normally requires further evaluation, such as a needle biopsy, a procedure that removes a small sample of tissue from the thyroid gland. An analysis of this tissue estimates how likely it is that the nodule is cancerous and helps determine if the nodule can be monitored with subsequent exams or an ultrasound. In some cases, surgery is required to find out more about the nodule.
How Do You Treat Thyroid Nodules?
If a thyroid nodule has a suspicious result from the needle biopsy, it requires surgical treatment. During the procedure, the “wing” of the butterfly-shaped thyroid is removed and evaluated under a microscope to determine if it’s cancerous. If it is cancerous, the other “wing” often needs to be removed too.
Depending on the stage of the cancer, Dr. Pollice says, “Radioactive iodine therapy is used to further eradicate any potential disease or cancer that persists in the body.” The good news is that thyroid cancer can often be treated and cured, especially if caught early.
Comprehensive Ear, Nose, and Throat Care – Closer to Home
Metropolitan ENT Associates—UPMC has been serving the tri-state area for more than 50 years and continues to excel in providing high-quality and convenient ear, nose, and throat (ENT) care to patients. “We offer some of the most sophisticated diagnostic tools and treatment protocols available for thyroid disorders,” adds Dr. Pollice.
Starting December 2020, South Hills residents will have expanded access to these innovative tools and treatments – at a brand new comprehensive medical and outpatient surgery center on Clairton Boulevard. The experts at Metropolitan ENT Associates—UPMC can provide you with world-class care for:
- Head and neck cancer
- Oral cavity and oropharynx disease
- Sino-nasal disease
- Sleep apnea
- Voice and laryngeal disorders
About Ear Nose and Throat
The experts in the UPMC Department of Otolaryngology treat a variety of ear, nose, and throat (ENT) conditions in both children and adults. Our team includes board-certified physicians and highly skilled speech-language pathologists and audiologists. We provide both surgical and nonsurgical treatment options. Our research and clinical trials help to advance care for our patients. Find an ENT expert near you.