Many diseases can affect the thyroid or be caused by issues with this gland. If you suspect you have a thyroid condition, it’s vital that you talk to an endocrinologist to see if you need treatment or simply need to monitor it. Here are three things you need to know about monitoring and treating thyroid nodules.
1. Treatment Necessity Can Range from Nonexistent to Critical
Thyroid conditions can range widely in severity. You may only need occasional monitoring for small issues such as stable nodules or slightly low or elevated thyroid hormones or routine treatments such as replacement thyroid hormone for conditions such as hypothyroidism.
However, moderate to severe conditions, such as hyperthyroidism and cancer, may require more invasive treatment. You should always seek treatment locally if possible. For example, if you live in Michigan, look for an endocrinologist in Michigan.
2. Diagnosing Nodules
Your endocrinologist will conduct a physical exam of your thyroid and throat to check the nodules’ sizes and how they feel before ordering an ultrasound, a thyroid function test, a thyroid scan or a biopsy. In some cases, multiple diagnostic tools are used.
If your nodules are benign and not causing any symptoms, you will likely only need to receive regular scans to monitor them. If they grow or change, further diagnostic measures and treatments may be necessary.
3. Treating Nodules
Your treatment plan depends on your diagnosis. Common treatments for cancerous nodules include surgical removal and radiation therapy. Depending on the number of nodules and their sizes and locations, your surgeon may target the nodules or remove all or part of the thyroid gland.
Nodules causing hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism may require additional treatment via medications and hormone replacement therapy. Cancerous nodules may benefit from alcohol ablation or radiofrequency ablation (RFA).
RFA is a useful non-invasive alternative treatment for certain types of benign nodules, including solid and mostly solid nodules. RFA involves targeting nodules with heat generated by a radiofrequency, which can reduce a nodule’s size.
People may opt for RFA if they’re eligible for it because other parts of the thyroid are less likely to be affected by it than they are by more invasive methods. It’s also associated with lower risks of long-lasting or permanent surgical scars and primary hypothyroidism.
If you suspect something is wrong with your thyroid, talk to your primary care physician. He or she can recommend an endocrinologist and provide you with a referral.