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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).

Symptoms

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)

Diagnosis

  • 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

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.

Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) for Benign Thyroid Nodules

Head and Neck Endocrine Surgeon, Jonathon Russell, describes how Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) is used to treat, who is an appropriate candidate and what is involved in this new treatment approach.

Case Presentation: Use of Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) for Benign Thyroid Nodules

Watch Ralph Tufano, M.D., director of the Division of Head and Neck Endocrine Surgery in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery discuss a case of a patient with a benign 3.7-centimeter thyroid nodule. The patient didn’t want to have thyroid surgery and opted to use RFA to reduce the size of his nodule.
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