The thyroid gland is a butterfly shaped gland in our neck that makes a hormone, which controls our overall metabolism. Thyroid nodules (also called thyroid adenomas, colloid nodules, and nodular hyperplasia) are growths within the thyroid gland. These growths are very common, particularly in women. They can be solid, fluid filled, or mixed. Many people with nodules have no symptoms and do not require any treatment. However, in some people thyroid nodules can cause significant problems:
- Growing nodules can push on the esophagus, trachea and voice box. This can cause a feeling of pressure in the neck, difficulty swallowing food, or difficulty breathing
- Most nodules are benign (non-cancerous) but in some patients nodules can be cancerous
- Some nodules are overactive and produce too much thyroid hormone, causing hyperthyroidism
Depending on which problem a thyroid nodule is causing, treatment may include medicine or surgery. To examine a nodule your physician might perform an ultrasound or biopsy. When surgery is needed, the technique used should be customized to best treat each individual patient. Minimally invasive techniques can be used in most patients with thyroid nodules.