How Can You Interpret the Results of an Abnormal Thyroid Scan?


Quick Answer

Thyroid ultrasound scans provide important details to help a doctor or surgeon determine if an identified abnormality is cancerous or benign, according to Thyroid Disease Manager. Interpretation of ultrasound images requires a great deal of anatomic knowledge, understanding of thyroid disease, and experience with ultrasound imaging. There are certain characteristic appearances of abnormal thyroid nodules that can suggest a greater likelihood of cancer, but only tissue biopsy can confirm a cancer diagnosis.

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The most common abnormality identified in a thyroid ultrasound scan is a nodule, states Thyroid Disease Manager. Doctors order ultrasound exams to assess the appearance of suspected thyroid nodules. Depending on the sonographic characteristics, suspicion of cancer is determined.

Some terms that suggest that an abnormal thyroid ultrasound has a greater likelihood of malignancy include "hypoechoic," "microcalcifications," "central vascularity," "irregular margins," "taller than wide" and "incomplete halo," according to Thyroid Disease Manager. If the ultrasound report states that the nodule has enlarged since a previous study, that also indicates an increased malignancy risk. It's important to note that a nodule described with only one of these characteristics is not evaluated with as high a risk compared to a nodule that possessed many of the above-listed features. Some terms associated with a low risk of thyroid cancer include "hyperechoic," "large, coarse calcifications," "peripheral vascularity" and "comet-tail shadowing."

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