Thyroid nodule is usually discovered by a physician during a routine physical examination of the patient. Sometimes a nodule is discovered by the patient.
At times, a thyroid mass is discovered incidentally on an ultrasound or CT scan of the neck or chest done for some other reason.
Benign VS. Cancerous Thyroid Nodule
The biggest concern with a thyroid nodule is whether it is cancerous or benign.
Most thyroid nodules (more than 95%) are not cancerous.
However, a thyroid cancer may rarely be present.
Factors that increase the likelihood of thyroid cancer are:
1. Older age.
2. Large size of the nodule.
3. Family history of thyroid cancer.
4. History of exposure to radiation to the head and neck area.
5. History of exposure to a nuclear reactor disaster; atomic bomb survivors.
Diagnostic Testing of a Thyroid Nodule
A blood test for thyroid function should be carried out first. This test is normal in most cases and further testing will be necessary.
Occasionally, the thyroid function test may indicate that a person is hyperthyroid (overactive thyroid). In these cases, chances of thyroid cancer are extremely low.
An ultrasound guided Fine Needle Aspiration Biopsy (FNA) is the most practical way to evaluate a thyroid nodule.