Your health care provider may recommend surgery to remove all or part of your thyroid gland if the nodule is:
- Believed to be making your thyroid overactive (hyperthyroid)
- Cannot be diagnosed as cancer or noncancer
- Cause symptoms such as swallowing or breathing problems
Patients with overactive nodules may be treated with radioactive iodine, which reduces the size and activity of the nodule. However, in rare cases the treatment can cause hypothyroidism and inflammation of the thyroid gland (radiation-induced thyroiditis). Pregnant women should not be given this treatment. Women being treated with radioactive iodine should not get pregnant.
Levothyroxine (thyroid hormone) is a drug that suppresses the production of the thyroid hormone T4. A doctor may prescribe levothyroxine to treat noncancerous nodules only in special cases.
Careful follow-up is the only recommended treatment for benign nodules that do not cause symptoms and are not growing. A thyroid biopsy may need to be repeated 6 – 12 months after diagnosis. An ultrasound may be repeated as well.
Other possible treatments include ethanol (alcohol) injection into the nodule and laser therapy.
Noncancerous thyroid nodules are not life threatening. Many do not require treatment, only follow-up. Noncancerous nodules that do need treatment have an excellent outlook.
The outlook for cancerous nodules depends on the type of cancer.
See also: Thyroid cancer
Hyperthyroidism is a common complication of noncancerous thyroid nodules.
Complications of treatment can include:
- Hoarse voice if vocal cord nerves are damaged during surgery
- Hypothyroidism from surgery or radioactive iodine therapy
- Low blood calcium (hypocalcemia) from hypoparathyroidism if parathyroid glands are accidentally damaged or removed during surgery
Calling Your Health Care Provider
Call your health care provider if you feel or see a lump in your neck, or if you experience any symptoms of a thyroid nodule.
If you have been exposed to radiation in the face or neck area, call your health care provider. A neck ultrasound can be done to look for thyroid nodules.
Review Date : 4/29/2009 Reviewed By : David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Deborah Wexler, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Endocrinologist, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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