Thyroid Nodules – What Are They?

What exactly are thyroid nodules? Thyroid nodules are lumps that show up in a normal thyroid gland. Your thyroid gland is located in the neck below the Adam’s apple. Shaped like a butterfly, the thyroid gland wraps around the windpipe or trachea. The thyroid gland provides a lot of uses for the body including: controlling how fast the body uses energy, regulates the heart and body temperature, makes proteins and controls many other systems in the body.

Nodules can occur in any part of the thyroid. While most thyroid nodules can be felt easily by your doctor upon examination, some thyroid nodules are deep in the thyroid tissue, or low in the gland where feeling it makes it harder. Ultrasound and/or thyroid scans can help your doctor locate the nodule and study it further. Thyroid Nodules that grow large can compress the esophagus or trachea making it difficult to swallow, even causing shortness of breath.

Not all thyroid nodules are cancerous, however; 10% of thyroid nodules are cancerous. Ultrasound images can rule out cancer. If more tests are needed to determine if the thyroid nodule is cancer, or non-cancer (benign), a fine needle aspiration is done to examine the thyroid cells. Thyroid nodules can also contain lymphoma. Lymphoma is a cancer of the immune system.Thyroid Nodules can also cause signs of hyperthyroidism (too much thyroid hormone), or hypothyroidism (not enough thyroid hormone). Hyperthyroidism symptoms include: having a fast heartbeat, feeling nervous, sweating a lot, or unexplained weight loss. On the other hand hypothyroidism symptoms include: memory problems, feeling tired or depressed, being constipated, having dry skin or feeling cold. Thyroid nodules can contain single or multiple nodules.

Although the cause of most thyroid nodules is not known, it has been said that people who have been exposed to radiation have a greater chance of getting thyroid nodules. In some cases the cause could be a lack of iodine in the diet. Thyroid nodules can also be hereditary.