What Is the Difference Between a Thyroid Cystic Mass and Complex Thyroid Nodules?

The difference between a thyroid cystic mass, also know as a thyroid cyst, and complex thyroid nodules is that thyroid cysts are liquid-filled sacs, while nodules can be solid lumps. Cysts and nodules do not necessarily indicate cancer and are more often benign than malignant, says Mayo Clinic.

Thyroid nodules, which are liquid or solid-filled lumps that form within the thyroid, can appear due to a thyroid cyst. Cysts in the thyroid are very rare, according to the American Thyroid Clinic. The majority of thyroid cysts are benign and result from degenerating thyroid adenomas, Mayo Clinic claims. At times, solid components mix with liquid inside a cyst.

In rare cases, nodules are a sign of thyroid cancer, states Mayo Clinic. Additionally, cysts may contain some cancerous substances. Patients with thyroid nodules or cysts who have a family history of thyroid cancer are at a greater risk. Surgeons usually remove part, or all, of the thyroid gland.

Nodules can cause other problems for a patient, asserts Mayo Clinic. Nodules resulting from cysts or conditions such as thyroiditis can make breathing and swallowing difficult for some people. Nodules can also produce excess thyroid hormone, which leads to hyperthyroidism. Heat intolerance, muscular weakness, and weight loss are a few signs of hyperthyroidism.