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Thyroid Disorders (cont.)

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Goiter

A goiter simply describes enlargement of the thyroid gland, regardless of cause. A goiter is not a specific disease per se. A goiter may be associated with hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, or normal thyroid function.

Thyroid nodules

Nodules are lumps or abnormal masses within the thyroid. Nodules can be caused by benign cysts, benign tumors, or, less commonly, by cancers of the thyroid. Nodules may be single or multiple and can vary in size. If nodules are excessively large, they may cause symptoms related to compression of nearby structures.

Thyroid cancer

About 60,000 cases of thyroid cancer are diagnosed yearly in the US. Thyroid cancer is far more common among adult women than men or youth. About 2/3 of cases occur in people under age 55. There are different kinds of thyroid cancer, depending upon the specific cell type within the thyroid that has become cancerous. Most cases of thyroid cancer have a good prognosis and high survival rates, especially when diagnosed in its early stages.

How are thyroid disorders diagnosed?

In addition to thorough medical history and physical exam, specialized tests are used to diagnose thyroid disorders.

Blood tests are typically done to measure levels of thyroid hormones and TSH. Blood tests to identify antibodies against thyroid tissue may also be ordered by your doctor, such as titers of anti-thyroglobulin, anti-thyroperoxidase, or TSH receptor stimulating antibodies.

Imaging tests are commonly used when thyroid nodules or enlargement are present. Ultrasound can visualize the consistency of the tissue within the gland and can often reveal cysts or calcifications. Ultrasound examination cannot distinguish a benign from a malignant process.

Thyroid scans using radioactive iodine are often performed to evaluate the function of thyroid nodules. The thyroid is the only location in the body that takes up iodine, so when radioactively labeled iodine is given, it is taken up by the thyroid gland. An imaging test typically shows uptake of radioactive iodine by normal thyroid tissue. Areas or nodules that are producing excess hormone (referred to as hyperfunctioning) will show an increased uptake of iodine. These are referred to as "hot" nodules or areas. By contrast, so-called "cold" nodules represent areas with decreased iodine uptake. "Cold" nodules do not produce excess hormone and can sometimes represent cancer.

Fine needle aspiration and biopsy are techniques that remove a sample of cells or tissue from the thyroid gland for examination and diagnosis by a pathologist, who is a physician trained in the diagnosis of conditions based on tissue samples. Fine needle aspiration (FNA) uses a long, thin needle to withdraw a sample of cells from the thyroid. FNA can be performed in the doctor's office. Sometimes, ultrasound imaging is used to guide the FNA procedure. A biopsy is the surgical sampling of a tissue.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/19/2013

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Thyroid Disorders - Experience Question: Please describe the type of thyroid disorder you have, and your experience with the disorder.
Thyroid Disorders - Treatment Question: What type of thyroid disorder do you have, and what treatments have you received?
Thyroid Disorders - Surgery Question: What type of thyroid disorder did/do you have, and please describe your experience with surgery for the disorder.
Thyroid Disorders - Thyroid Cancer Question: Please describe your experience with thyroid cancer.
Thyroid Disorders - Hypothyroidism Question: Please describe your experience with hypothyroidism.
Thyroid Disorders - Hyperthyroidism Question: Please describe your experience with hyperthyroidism.
Thyroid Disorders - Goiter Question: Please describe your experience with thyroid goiter.
Thyroid Disorders - Nodules Question: Please describe your experience with thyroid nodules.
Thyroid Disorders - Symptoms and Signs Question: What type of thyroid disorder do you have, and what were your symptoms and signs?
Source: MedicineNet.com
http://www.medicinenet.com/thyroid_disorders/article.htm

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