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artists' rendering of thyroid gland
artists' rendering of thyroid gland
artists' rendering of thyroid gland

Thyroid Nodules

What are thyroid nodules?

Thyroid nodules are growths in the thyroid gland, which is a gland located in the front of the neck and controls many critical functions. Most nodules are benign tissue, but some can be malignant, or cancerous. Thyroid nodules are rare during childhood and adolescence, but they can and do occur.

There are several types of nodules: colloid nodule, a benign accumulation of thyroid cells forming one or more nodules on the thyroid gland; follicular adenoma (benign); thyroid cysts (usually benign), small sacs filled with fluid and sometimes with solid parts; inflammatory nodules, formed as a result of chronic inflammation of the gland; and thyroid cancer (typically hard nodules).

Some nodules may affect the hormones produced by the thyroid gland, causing symptoms of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland) or hyperthyroidism (overactive gland).


Many nodules do not cause symptoms until they are large enough to affect the surrounding tissues and organs or to be visible on the neck. Depending on the type and cause of the nodule, symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • Hoarseness or other voice changes

  • Pain in the neck

  • Visible and/or palpable swelling of the neck (goiter)

  • Sudden, rapid weight loss

  • Rapid or irregular pulse

  • Nervousness, anxiety

  • Cold intolerance

  • Fatigue

  • Dry skin

  • Weight gain

  • Facial edema (swelling)


  • Physical exam/palpation

  • CT scan

  • Ultrasound of the neck

  • Blood tests to measure the level of thyroid hormones in the blood

  • Biopsy of the nodule, the most definitive test to determine whether a nodule is benign or malignant

When to Call for Help

If your child has any of the symptoms listed above, consult your pediatrician.  


Treatment will depend on the type and cause of the nodule. Sometimes watchful observation and regular follow-up is all that is needed. Medication and surgery may also be necessary.

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