The thyroid gland is normally a small and symmetric gland at the bottom of the neck. Thyroid nodules are a lump or mass in the gland. They are very common in adults, and the majority (90% to 95%) are benign. Nodules can be caused by cysts; autoimmune thyroid disease, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis; iodine deficiency; or thyroid cancer. Studies have shown that medication does not shrink thyroid nodules. At Keck Medicine of USC, we evaluate thyroid nodules, using cutting-edge ultrasound techniques; minimally invasive, ultrasound-guided needle biopsies; and molecular (genetic) testing, to determine if a nodule is benign or malignant (cancerous).
There are two main reasons why your endocrinologist or surgeon will recommend surgery for thyroid nodules:
- Concern for cancer or “indeterminate” biopsy results
- Symptoms of obstruction from a large nodule, such as trouble breathing when you lie flat or trouble swallowing solid foods