The American Association of Endocrine Surgeons, Patient Education Site

The office visit: Questions for patient

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What questions will I be asked?

When a thyroid nodule is detected, the physician will ask you about your medical history and perform a complete physical exam. Symptoms such as pain, swelling in the neck, difficulty with swallowing, shortness of breath, difficulty with breathing, or a change in your voice should be discussed. Your family history is also important, as some thyroid cancers have a genetic basis and run in families.

Your physician will ask questions about your risk factors for thyroid cancer. Features that make surgeons more suspicious of a nodule are rapid growth, family history of thyroid cancer, family history of a condition known as Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia 2 (MEN-2), young age at diagnosis (less than 20 yrs old), male gender, history of head or neck irradiation, and compressive symptoms such as problems swallowing or breathing.

When your physician performs an exam, he/she will be particularly focused on features that can be associated with thyroid cancer. These characteristics include size of the nodule (greater than 4 cm in size), rock hard texture, fixation of the nodule to surrounding structures, paralyzed vocal cord, or enlarged lymph nodes.

The doctor will review all of your records, will specifically look for prior imaging studies that have been done (neck ultrasound), and look at any biopsies that may have been performed (FNAFNA - fine needle aspiration biopsy biopsy). You should be sure to bring the reports of these studies to your office visit. In many cases, the physician will want to see the actual ultrasound (or other x-ray test) and may wish to have the actual biopsy slides reviewed by another pathologist.

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