The American Association of Endocrine Surgeons, Patient Education Site

Thyroid nodule: Diagnosis

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Diagnosing a thyroid nodule

A complete medical history and physical examination should be done by your physician. Pertinent signs and symptoms of the thyroid nodule, as mentioned above, should be discussed. The patient's neck should be inspected and then examined while sitting up at rest and again while swallowing. The firmness of the nodule and whether it moves easily should be noted.

An ultrasound is the best study to evaluate the thyroid and the neck area. A diagnostic thyroid ultrasound should be done to assess the entire thyroid and to evaluate the nodule for size, shape, borders, calcifications, fluid, etc. The ultrasound can also be used to perform a FNAFNA - fine needle aspiration biopsy biopsy, if indicated. (See Fine needle aspiration biopsy)

Routine blood tests should include thyroid hormone levels, particularly thyroid stimulating hormone (TSHTSH - Thyroid stimulating hormone; also known as thyrotropin. The hormone that causes the thyroid to make and release thyroid hormone). If the TSH level is below normal, this means that your thyroid may be over-functioning and producing too much thyroid hormone. A thyroid uptake scanThyroid uptake scan - radioactive iodine scan to detect hyperfunctioning thyroid nodules should be done to see if the nodule is hyperfunctioning. If the nodule is overfunctioning, it would "light up" on the scan and therefore confirm a hyperfunctioning thyroid nodule. If the TSH is normal or higher than normal, then a FNA biopsy may be indicated.

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