The first step in diagnosing
thyroid nodules is a
medical history and
physical exam. Thyroid nodules often are found during
a physical exam or during a
CT scan or
ultrasound of the neck, chest, or head done for
another problem. Most people do not find thyroid nodules on their own, because
they are difficult to feel and usually do not cause symptoms.
your doctor finds a thyroid nodule, he or she may refer you to an
endocrinologist for more tests and treatment.
Common tests for people with thyroid nodules are:
- Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) test. This is a blood test to see how well your thyroid
gland is working.
- Thyroid biopsy. This test checks to see
if your nodule is cancerous. A biopsy involves removing a piece of your thyroid
nodule, often through a needle. This test is a simple procedure that can be
done in your doctor's office.
- Thyroid ultrasound. Ultrasound uses reflected sound waves to create a picture of
organs and other structures inside your body. Ultrasound cannot show whether a
nodule is cancerous, but it can help your doctor:
- Confirm that you have thyroid nodules if
other tests have not been clear.
- See what is happening to nodules
that are not going away.
- Find your nodule during a thyroid biopsy
done with a needle.
Other tests you may have include:
- Thyroid hormone tests. These blood tests are done to see if a nodule is causing your
thyroid gland to make too much or too little
test. This test checks your level of a hormone called calcitonin as a way to
help find out if you have cancer. This test will probably be done if other
people in your family have had thyroid cancer or any other type of cancer of
- Thyroid scan.
This test uses radioactive material and a camera to see how well your thyroid
gland is working and to see if you have
nodule is not cancerous, your doctor will check its size once a year. He or she
may also do a
thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) test to see how well
your thyroid is working. An
ultrasound may also be used to see if your thyroid
nodule has grown. If your nodule has gotten bigger, another
biopsy, and surgery, may be necessary.
your thyroid gland was removed because of cancer, your doctor may test for
thyroglobulin, a protein made by both normal and cancerous cells. High levels
of thyroglobulin may mean that the cancer has spread (metastasized) to other
parts of your body.
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