These common growths often cause no pain and usually don’t require treatment.
Thyroid nodules are growths within the thyroid gland that typically don’t cause symptoms. They are common, and can be solid, fluid-filled, or a combination. Your doctor may refer to thyroid nodules as thyroid adenomas, colloid nodules, or nodular hyperplasia. Some patients develop just one nodule, while others develop several.
What causes thyroid nodules?
Many conditions can cause these nodules, including chronic inflammation or excessive growth of thyroid tissue. Iodine deficiency also can cause thyroid nodules, though this is uncommon in the U.S. because iodine is added to our salt.
Approximately half of people age 60 and older have one or more thyroid nodules. Women are more likely than men to develop these growths.
Symptoms and treatments for thyroid nodules
Many people with thyroid nodules have no symptoms and do not need treatment. But thyroid nodules can cause significant problems if they:
- Grow too large: Nodules can push on the esophagus, trachea, and voice box. This can cause a feeling of pressure in the neck and can make swallowing or breathing difficult.
- Become overactive: Nodules that become overactive produce too much thyroid hormone, which can cause hyperthyroidism.
- Are cancerous: More than 90 percent of nodules are benign (non-cancerous), but some are cancerous.
Treatments vary by condition and may include medication or thyroid surgery. If the doctor suspects you have a cancerous nodule, you may need a thyroid nodule biopsy to rule out or confirm cancer.
Thyroid nodules often can be treated with minimally invasive surgery, which uses smaller incisions and provides quicker recovery. Meet our surgery team.