Thyroid nodules

A thyroid nodule is a solid of fluid-filled lump that occurs in the thyroid, a gland in the neck that is important for growth and metabolism. Thyroid nodules can be malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous). The majority are not cancerous.

Symptoms

Most thyroid nodules show no signs or symptoms.

When symptoms do appear, they may include:

  • a lump in the neck (goiter)
  • unexplained hoarseness
  • shortness of breath or difficulty swallowing

Some rare thyroid nodule can produce too much thyroxine, the thyroid hormone, causing hyperthyroidism. With this type of thyroid nodule, symptoms may include:

  • weight loss
  • nervousness
  • rapid or an irregular heartbeat
  • tremor  
  • frequent bowel movements
  • difficulty concentrating

Diagnosis

Thyroid nodules diagnoses will begin with a physical exam and review of your child’s full medical history. In addition, our physicians may use a variety of diagnostic tests including:

  • Blood tests to measure the thyroid hormone and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels.
  • Ultrasound, a radiation-free imaging technique, which uses high-frequency soundwaves to capture images of your child’s thyroid and lymph nodes.
  • Fine needle aspiration biopsy may be used to determine if the thyroid nodule is cancerous. A thin needle is used to extract cells from the nodule for examination. 
  • Thyroid scan, a nuclear medicine and imaging test, in which your child drinks a radioactive iodine and then has images captured of his or her thyroid to determine how much iodine it absorbed. Iodine absorption is used to detect the thyroid nodules and if they are cancerous or non-cancerous.
  • Genetic testing may be used if the nodules appear as part of a genetic condition.

Treatment

At Texas Children’s Hospital, treatment plans are tailored to your child’s individual needs.

Thyroid nodule treatment may include:

  • Observation: If the thyroid is not cancerous or causing difficulty with swallowing your physician may simply monitor the thyroid nodule, through regularly scheduled appointments.
  • Surgery: A thyroidectomy (total removal of the thyroid) or a lobectomy (partial removal) may be performed. These surgeries should be performed by high-volume surgical teams, such as our Thyroid Program Surgical Team, to achieve the best possible outcomes.