What Are Thyroid Nodules?
Thyroid nodules are solid or fluid-filled lumps that occur in the thyroid, the gland at the base of the neck responsible for regulating metabolism, growth and development and body temperature. Most thyroid nodules are not cancerous, but may become large enough to be felt or put pressure on the windpipe or esophagus. Sometimes they can produce additional thyroxine, leading to weight loss, tremors and rapid heartbeat.
Thyroid nodules can form for a number of reasons. Causes of thyroid nodules include:
- Iodine deficiency
- Non-cancerous overgrowth of thyroid tissue
- Inflammation caused by the thyroid disorder Hashimoto disease
- Thyroid cancer
These causes are often detected during routine physical examinations or imaging tests taken for other reasons. Your physician will likely refer you to an endocrinologist, who will perform thyroid function tests, ultrasounds, thyroid scans and take a biopsy.
Northwestern Medicine treats benign thyroid nodules by watching them closely, treating them with thyroid hormone suppression therapy and with surgery to remove nodules that affect the patient’s breathing. Nodules causing hyperthyroidism may be treated with radioactive iodine to shrink the nodules, anti-thyroid medications and surgery.