What do Sofia Vergara, Isaac Asimov, Rod Stewart, Tarek El Moussa, Catherine Bell, Joe Piscopo, Jennifer Grey, Daymond John, and approximately 50 percent of American adults have in common? They’ve all had thyroid nodules.
“Thanks to increased awareness and improved diagnostic imaging, we’re able to detect thyroid nodules more often,” explains Alexander Shifrin, MD, surgical director of Endocrinology at CentraState Medical Center. “Now, most primary care physicians and even gynecologists screen for thyroid nodules as part of regular wellness exams.”
The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped gland in the neck, situated below the Adam’s apple. As part of the endocrine system, the thyroid produces hormones that help your body use energy, stay warm, and keep the brain, heart, muscles, and other organs working properly.
Roughly 20 million people in the U.S. have some type of thyroid disease, including thyroid nodules. Also called goiters, thyroid nodules are lumps of tissue or fluid-filled cysts in the thyroid gland. While thyroid nodules can affect the structure of the thyroid gland, often making it appear swollen, they rarely affect how the thyroid functions.
“Most nodules are found during a routine physical exam, and they are most common in women,” says Dr. Shifrin. “In fact, about one in two women over age 50 have thyroid nodules.”
Dr. Shifrin shares three facts about one of the most common—and curable—medical conditions.
- There are several types of nodules, including solid, cystic, and complex. The majority of thyroid nodules are solid, and most aren’t cancerous. If cancer is found, it is curable in up to 95% of patients.
- We don’t know why most thyroid nodules develop, but they are often found in members of the same family. In addition, living in an area with an iodine deficiency can cause a goiter to develop.
- Most thyroid nodules don’t cause any symptoms. However, in rare cases, they can make swallowing or breathing difficult, cause hoarseness or voice changes, or create a full feeling in the neck. If the nodule is cystic and causes discomfort, it can be drained with a needle, reduced through fine-needle aspiration, or surgically removed using minimally invasive techniques.
If your provider finds a thyroid nodule, he or she may order a blood test, ultrasound, biopsy or iodine scan to evaluate the nodule and help determine your treatment options.
To learn more about CentraState’s Endocrine Program, visit centrastate.com/endocrine or call 866-236-8727.