How to know if a neck lump is benign?

From the EGR Medicine Institute they explain us how we can know if a nodule in the neck is benign, know its symptoms and causes, how to detect it, among others. Through 7 key questions, we will discover all the details.

What is a thyroid ultrasound?

The thyroid gland is located in the anterior neck area. Its main function is to create the thyroid hormone that performs multiple functions in the whole organism:

  • Regulate metabolism.
  • Control the intestinal and cardiac rhythm.
  • Influences the course of pregnancy, among others.

What are the causes of thyroid nodules?

There are several factors related to their appearance, which are being studied. Some of the reasons are the following:

  • Genetic factors.
  • Dietary iodine deficiency.
  • Molecular mutations due to external irradiation.

Currently it is estimated that 50 to 70% of the population has thyroid nodules. Of this percentage, it is estimated that 10% can be diagnosed, with palpation by expert hands. It is possible to diagnose 100% if an ultrasound scan of the gland is performed.

Most nodules tend to occur in women between the ages of 20 and 50.

What are the symptoms?

In the most extreme cases, large nodules may cause discomfort when breathing, swallowing or other local symptoms. In general, however, nodules have no symptoms and are diagnosed by self-palpation of a lump in the front of the neck.

How do I know if a nodule is benign?

In order to determine it, it is necessary to perform an ultrasound and thyroid function tests. It is estimated that 95% of nodules are benign but to find out it is necessary to perform a FNA (fine needle aspiration, fine needle puncture).

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FNA is a simple, uncomplicated test that is performed under ultrasound guidance. It is performed on patients with nodules larger than 1 centimeter or with ultrasound features that may suggest malignancy.

Can it influence whether a patient has hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism?

Hyperthyroidism or hyperfunction of the gland and the presence of a thyroid nodule increases the chances of benignity of the nodule in virtually all cases.

In contrast, hyperthyroidism or hypofunction and the presence of thyroid nodules, it is not known whether it increases the likelihood of malignancy or benignity.

What happens in cases of malignant nodules?

There is an estimated 90% chance of survival of thyroid cancer, although each case must be individualized.

In some cases, if treatment does not prove to cure the pathology, treatment with radioactive iodine may be applied.

Thyroid cancer has a good prognosis and high survival rates, compared to cancers such as colon, breast or pancreas.

In addition, it should be noted that treatment with thyroid hormone after treatment means that the patient does not suffer any symptoms after surgery, if the dosage is adequate.

What should be done when a benign nodule is detected after FNA?

In these cases, an ultrasound check-up is recommended every 6 or 12 months, depending on the individual characteristics.

When the nodule does not grow or change its ultrasound characteristics, a repeat FNA is recommended.

In cases of large nodules (about 4 centimeters) or with compressive symptoms, surgery is recommended to prevent growth, with improvement of symptoms.

In short, most thyroid nodules are very common, most of them being benign. In any case, ultrasound monitoring and follow-up by an Endocrinology specialist is recommended.