The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the front of the neck. It produces thyroid hormone, which controls your metabolism, temperature regulation, and keeps your muscles and organs working properly. Diseases of the thyroid, whether functional (hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism) or structural (nodule, goiter, cancer), occur very commonly.
A nodule is an area of abnormal growth within the thyroid gland. Some people have a single nodule while others have multiple nodules within the gland. Thyroid nodules, which are particularly common in women, can be tiny to very large in size.
Most thyroid nodules are non-cancerous, do not cause symptoms, and do not need any treatment. In some cases, however, because of the size, appearance (on radiology tests), or symptoms caused by the nodule, additional evaluation and treatment may be needed.
Because many thyroid nodules are small, they may cause no symptoms. However, some nodules can cause the thyroid to grow (called a goiter), some can be overactive and lead to hyperthyroidism, and some can be thyroid cancers. If patients do experience symptoms they may include:
Most thyroid nodules require no treatment. Depending on the type of nodule and related symptoms, different treatment options may be appropriate. In some cases, thyroid surgery is needed.
Your endocrinologist or ENT (ear, nose, and throat) specialist, or otolaryngologist, may order or perform:
Copyright 2021. American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery Foundation. Last reviewed April 2020.