What is a solid thyroid nodule?

Thyroid nodules are growths of abnormal tissue that develop in the thyroid gland. These lumps can be solid or cystic and filled with fluid. A solid thyroid nodule is more likely than a cystic nodule to be malignant. However, more than 90% of all solid nodules are benign.

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland that regulates a variety of hormonal interactions, including the rate at which the body burns energy, makes proteins, and maintains heart function. It is made up of a right lobe and a left lobe, and is located at the base of the throat, below the thyroid cartilage, also known as the Adam's apple. When a cystic or solid thyroid nodule occurs, it is often located at the edge of the thyroid. In this case, the patient may experience the nodule as a lump in the throat. Depending on the size of the patient and the lump, the nodule may be visible in the front of the neck.

One cause of a solid thyroid nodule is thyroid cancer, which is diagnosed in less than 10% of all patients with this type of lump. Another cause of a solid thyroid nodule is iodine deficiency. Iodine is an essential trace mineral important for proper physical and mental functions. When too little iodine is consumed, thyroid problems, including nodules, can occur. Hashimoto's disease a condition characterized by chronic inflammation of the thyroid, can also cause a solid thyroid nodule.

In addition to thyroid cancer, there are several other types of benign solid thyroid nodules. An inflammatory nodule, caused by chronic inflammation of the thyroid, is a common type of nodule. Colloid nodules are another type of nodule that can be seen in patients presenting with this type of thyroid mass. These overgrowths of tissue may get larger, but they do not grow beyond the thyroid area. Still another type of solid thyroid nodule, the hyperfunctional thyroid nodule, produces hormones and may contribute to the onset of hyperthyroidism .

A thyroid nodule may be diagnosed after the patient or doctor notices a lump in the front of the patient's neck. Sometimes, however, the nodule is detected incidentally during an imaging test for another reason. Once the nodule is discovered, a doctor will often order a blood test to check the level of thyroid hormone.

Regardless of the results, the doctor will also usually order a thyroid ultrasound to determine if the nodule is a solid thyroid nodule or is cystic. A fine-needle biopsy of the thyroid, an office procedure to remove cells from the nodule, is also usually done. A pathologist analyzes the collected cells, and if cancer is suspected, the biopsy may be repeated or the nodule may be surgically removed to make a final diagnosis. A thyroid scan, a test that uses radioactive iodine to help determine if the nodule is malignant or benign, may also be used in the diagnostic process.

Go up