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What is a cold nodule in relation to the thyroid?

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Quick Answer

A cold nodule is a lump in the thyroid gland that is not making any thyroid hormones, according to Healthline. Hot nodules produce excessive amounts of hormones.

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Full Answer

Nodules on the thyroid usually cause no symptoms, states Healthline. However, because the thyroid sits near the larynx, occasionally a nodule grows large enough to interfere with breathing. Sometimes doctors notice nodules during physicals.

Typically, cancerous nodules are cold rather than hot, Mayo Clinic observes. However, about 90 percent of all nodules are noncancerous, reports the American Thyroid Association (ATA). Even so, once a nodule is noticed, it is checked for cancer. This is done with a biopsy, which uses a needle to remove nodule cells for testing. Ultrasounds are also done to see if a nodule has traits characteristic of thyroid cancer.

If a nodule is cancerous, it is usually surgically removed, Mayo Clinic advises. Much of the thyroid is often removed. In this case, patients take the prescription medicine levothyroxine for the rest of their lives to replace the thyroid hormone. Surgery sometimes damages the vocal cord nerve or the parathyroid gland, which regulates blood calcium levels.

Noncancerous nodules are usually monitored with yearly neck examinations and ultrasounds, reveals the ATA. Treatment is reviewed if a nodule becomes too large, or if its appearance changes.

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