The term thyroid nodules refers to any abnormal growth that forms a lump in the thyroid gland, which is located low in the front of the neck, below Adam’s apple. The thyroid gland is shaped like a butterfly and wraps around the windpipe or the trachea. Thyroid nodules can occur in any part of the gland. Some thyroid nodules can be felt quite easily, while others can be hidden deep in the thyroid tissue or located very low in the gland where they are difficult to feel.
Most of the times, the thyroid nodules do not have symptoms. Nevertheless, if the cells in the nodules are functioning and producing thyroid hormone on their own, the nodule may produce signs and symptoms of too much thyroid hormone. Many patients that believe to have thyroid nodules claim to have pain that goes up to the ear of the jaw. If the thyroid nodules are very large, then they can cause difficulties in swallowing or shortness of breath.
Thyroid nodules are discovered during regular check-ups on the neck. The patient may notice thyroid nodules as small lumps in their neck when looking in the mirror. The doctor determines if there is one or more thyroid nodules and what the rest of the gland feels like. If the thyroid nodules are fixed to the surrounding tissue, there is a higher probability of cancer.
The presence of thyroid nodules can also be traced by means of blood tests, that asses the function of the thyroid. If the blood test is not relevant, then the physician may order an ultrasound examination of the thyroid. The ultrasound can detect thyroid nodules that are not easily felt, determine the number of nodules as well as their size and determine whether thyroid nodules are solid or cystic.
In case a patient has thyroid nodules, the bet solution is surgery, especially if the nodules are large enough to obstruct eating and swallowing. Surgery also prevents the thyroid nodules to grow even more and expand to the other organs in the throat.