January is Thyroid Awareness Month!
The thyroid is a small gland responsible for producing hormones that play a crucial role in many of the body’s systems — from cells and tissues, to organs like the heart, brain, liver, and kidneys. The thyroid helps regulate and control things like metabolism - how your body uses engery. It also involves other processes like regulating body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure.
Dysfunction occurs when the thyroid produces either too much or too little thyroid hormone. Either can disrupt healthy functioning of vital organs — leading to a wide range of symptoms.
Everyday new thyroid nodules are discovered by their physicians, family, friends, and even their hairdressers!
Some people have symptoms related to the size of the nodules, which directs them to seek medical consultation.
Others have no symptoms but learn about these nodules after undergoing radiologic testing for different reasons.
The majority of thyroid nodules are benign.
The most readily available modality for evaluating these is the ultrasound. The test is easily performed and avoids radiation exposure. The physician performed exam is much better than reviewing the still images saved on prior examinations. The study is easily repeated with no potential harm to the patient.
With thyroid ultrasound there are several features in benign nodules that we like to identify to consider a lesion low risk of malignancy. When some of these features are absent, the nodule would be considered indeterminate, or potentially at risk for malignancy. These nodules will be tested using a biopsy to help the physician guide therapy.
Not all nodules have the favorable ultrasound characteristics, and yet they may prove benign on biopsy. Additionally, a small percentage of nodules can have favorable findings on ultrasound and yet can be found to have papillary thyroid cancer. It is for these reasons that routine surveillance ultrasound is initiated once a nodule grows to about 15 mm in largest dimension.
Dr. Richard Harding has performed over 90 RFA treatments in the last 3 years.