What Size Would a Thyroid Nodule Need to Be to Cause Concern?


Quick Answer

Most thyroid nodules are so small that the patient does not find them, but a nodule of any size requires further testing due to its potential to affect the individual's metabolism. While most nodules are not cancerous, the University of Michigan Health System indicates further testing is required to rule out the possibility.

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Full Answer

Treatment for a benign thyroid nodule depends on how it affects the patient, according to WebMD. If it's not causing any symptoms, his doctor often waits, keeping the nodule under observation, before making a decision. If it is affecting thyroid function, doctors usually discuss surgery or medication. Most benign nodules respond well to medication or radioactive iodine. If the nodule is so large that it affects the individual's ability to breathe or swallow, the doctor is more likely to discuss surgical removal.

To determine the effect of the nodule on the patient, the doctor performs several tests. The Mayo Clinic indicates one of these tests is a physical exam while the patient swallows. Ultrasound imaging helps the doctor to determine if the nodule is a solid mass or a growth containing fluid. The thyroid scan involves injecting radioactive iodine into the patient's arm and using an imaging device to observe the nodule. The scan is not able to determine if the nodule is cancerous. Doctors use fine needle aspiration to remove fluid from liquid-filled nodules to test for cancer.

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