What is the thyroid gland?
The thyroid gland is a vital endocrine organ situated in the front part of the neck. This gland produces hormones known as T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine), which are secreted into the bloodstream. These hormones play a crucial role in regulating the metabolic rate of the body and have a significant impact on the proper functioning of vital organs such as the heart, brain, and muscles. In addition to controlling metabolism, thyroid hormones are also essential for growth, development, and the maintenance of body temperature.
What are the common thyroid problems?
The thyroid gland can develop lumps or nodules, and the risk of this increases with age, particularly after the age of 60. Additionally, thyroid nodules are more common in women than in men.
Hormonal imbalances can occur, resulting in either hyperthyroidism (an excess of thyroid hormones) or hypothyroidism (a deficiency of thyroid hormones). The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is Graves’ disease, which is an autoimmune disorder.
What are thyroid nodules?
A thyroid nodule refers to an unusual accumulation of thyroid cells and tissue that forms a lump or growth in the gland. While most nodules are benign and associated with aging, it is crucial to assess them upon detection to rule out the possibility of cancer. Therefore, it is essential to undergo appropriate testing and evaluation, which may include imaging tests and a biopsy, to determine the nature of the nodule and whether any treatment is necessary.
What the symptoms of a thyroid nodule?
Many thyroid nodules do not cause noticeable symptoms and are often discovered incidentally as the use of scans becomes more widespread. However, larger nodules may be visible as a swelling in the neck and can cause discomfort, tightness, or pressure in the neck, as well as difficulty swallowing or breathing. Hoarseness of the voice can also be a sign of cancer if the cancer has spread to the nerves that control the vocal cords. However, in the early stages of cancer, most patients do not exhibit any symptoms.
What are the investigations needed if thyroid nodules are detected?
Following a consultation and physical examination with your doctor, blood tests and an ultrasound examination of the thyroid gland will be performed. The ultrasound helps to identify the characteristics of the nodule in question and detect any additional nodules.
Based on the size and features of the nodules, your doctor may decide to perform a needle biopsy. This procedure can be done in the clinic under local anesthesia with minimal complications, such as slight pain at the injection site. The analysis of the cells obtained during the biopsy will take up to a week before a diagnosis can be reached.
How are thyroid nodules treated?
Benign nodules can be observed and follow up with repeated ultrasound. Surgery can be considered if they continue to grow or causes symptoms. There are options of non surgical treatment for benign thyroid nodules too. Cancerous nodules have to be treated by surgery to remove half or the entire thyroid gland. Most thyroid cancers are curable if detected and treated early.
What are the surgical approach for thyroid nodules?
Partial (hemithyroidectomy) or total thyroidectomy can be performed to remove thyroid nodules.
Your surgeon will recommend which is the best appropriate surgery of choice for your case.
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