The thyroid is a small hormone gland at the base of the neck near the breastbone. When the body lacks iodine from poor diet or experiences thyroid overgrowth or chronic inflammation, solid or fluid-filled lumps can form. These nodules are generally minor and can subside with time, or be treated with hormone therapy or surgery. In some cases thyroid cancer can cause nodules to form.
Symptoms & Causes
Most of the time patients with thyroid nodules will not notice them until a routine doctor exam. However, in some cases nodules can grow so large they can be felt, seen as swelling, and press against the windpipe causing shortness of breath, or difficulty swallowing. Thyroid cysts, thyroiditis, cancer and iodine deficiency can all cause nodules.
Diagnosis & Treatment
When nodules are discovered, your doctor will first test to see if the abnormality is cancerous. Tests which may be conducted are a physical exam, thyroid function test, ultrasonography, and biopsy. Options for treatment can include waiting for the nodule to subside on its own, trying thyroid hormone suppression therapy, and surgery. If you have a condition known as hyperthyroidism your doctor might use radioactive iodine or an anti-thyroid medication.