Thyroid Nodules


  • A thyroid nodule is a growth (lump) in your thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped organ in the front part of your neck. It makes hormones (special chemicals) that act as messengers to help control how your body works. You may have one or more thyroid nodules. The nodule may grow and you may be able to feel it with your fingers. The nodule may also be painless and you may not know it is there. There is a small chance that your thyroid nodule may be cancer.

  • You may have no signs and symptoms from your thyroid nodule at first. As your nodule grows, you may see a lump on your neck, or often cough and choke. You may have a hoarse voice, swollen neck veins, and trouble breathing and swallowing. You may need an ultrasound, fine needle aspiration (FNA), and blood tests to learn more about your condition. A thyroid nodule may be treated with an ethanol injection, radioactive iodine, laser ablation, thyroid medicine, or surgery. Having your thyroid nodule treated may decrease its size, make your symptoms go away, and prevent further problems.


Take your medicine as directed.

Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

  • Pain medicine: You may need medicine to take away or decrease pain.

    • Learn how to take your medicine. Ask what medicine and how much you should take. Be sure you know how, when, and how often to take it.

    • Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine. Tell caregivers if your pain does not decrease.

    • Pain medicine can make you dizzy or sleepy. Prevent falls by calling someone when you get out of bed or if you need help.

  • Radioactive iodine: This medicine damages cells in your thyroid gland, decreasing the amount of thyroid hormone in your blood. This may help your body work better. After taking radioactive iodine, your thyroid gland may still make too much or not enough hormone. If this happens, you may still need to take thyroid medicine.

  • Thyroid hormone: You are given this medicine to bring your thyroid hormone level back to normal.

Follow-up visit information:

You may need to have blood and imaging tests done after your treatment. Blood tests are done to measure the amount of hormones and other chemicals in your blood. Imaging tests may help your caregiver check if your nodule is growing or if it has returned. Ask your caregiver when to come back, and how often you need blood and imaging tests done. Keep all appointments. Write down any questions you may have. This way you will remember to ask these questions during your next visit.


Your caregiver may ask you to increase the amount of iodine in your diet. Iodine is found in milk, fish, clams, and other seafood. In areas where iodine deficiency is common, you may be given iodine supplements.

Radiation therapy:

This may include external beam radiation therapy, which may be used after you have had thyroid surgery. You may need this if your thyroid nodule was found to be cancerous. Radiation therapy uses x-rays or gamma rays to control bleeding, and shrink your nodule. It keeps cancer cells from splitting into new cells, which is one way cancer spreads. Lymph nodes with cancer may also be treated with radiation. Radiation may be done after surgery to kill the cancer cells that were not removed. Ask your caregiver for more information about external beam radiation therapy.

Thyroid remnant ablation:

This procedure uses radioactive iodine to destroy thyroid cancer tissues left in your neck. Ask your caregiver for information on this procedure.


  • You cough often, or feel like you are choking.

  • You feel a new lump in your neck.

  • You feel pain in your neck.

  • Your voice becomes hoarse or you have trouble swallowing.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition, treatment, or care.


  • You suddenly have trouble breathing.

  • Your symptoms suddenly get worse.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Thyroid Nodules (Aftercare Instructions)