Medication Guide App

Thyroid Nodules

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:

  • 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.

CARE AGREEMENT:

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

RISKS:

  • An ethanol injection and laser ablation may cause neck pain and voice hoarseness. Medicines used to treat your thyroid nodules may cause an allergic response. Medicines may also cause brittle bones (bones that are easily broken) and abnormal heartbeats. Surgery to remove your thyroid gland may damage nerves, tissues, and other nearby organs. Your larynx (voice box) may be damaged and may not work the way it should. You may also bleed more than expected or get an infection. Even after treatment, your signs and symptoms may continue, or stop and come back after a period of time.

  • If your thyroid nodule is left untreated, the problems or symptoms that you have may get worse. A thyroid nodule may be a sign of thyroid cancer, which can spread to other body organs. If the amount of thyroid hormone in your body becomes too high, your temperature and blood pressure may increase. If the amount of hormone becomes too low, you may get a severe (very bad) condition called myxedema. With this condition, you may have fluid and swelling in your legs, ankles, lungs, or around your heart. Your body temperature decreases and you may have slow heartbeats. You may also have problems thinking clearly. You may go into a coma or die if you do not get treatment for your thyroid nodule.

WHILE YOU ARE HERE:

Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.

Blood tests:

You may need blood taken for tests. These tests will show the amount of thyroid hormones in your blood. Your blood can be taken from a blood vessel in your hand, arm, or the bend in your elbow. You may need to have blood drawn more than once.

An IV

is a small tube placed in your vein that is used to give you medicine or liquids.

Vital signs:

Caregivers will check your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and temperature. They will also ask about your pain. These vital signs give caregivers information about your current health.

Medicines:

You may be given the following medicines:

  • Pain medicine: Caregivers may give you medicine to take away or decrease your pain.

    • Do not wait until the pain is severe to ask for your medicine. Tell caregivers if your pain does not decrease. The medicine may not work as well at controlling your pain if you wait too long to take it.

    • Pain medicine can make you dizzy or sleepy. Prevent falls by calling a caregiver when you want to 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.

Tests:

  • Fine-needle aspiration: This is also called a FNA. During this test, your caregiver may use medicine to numb the front part of your neck. A small needle will be inserted into your neck. Your caregiver will use the needle to take a tissue sample from your thyroid gland or lymph nodes. The sample is then sent to a lab for tests.

  • Imaging tests: Certain tests use a special dye to help pictures show up better. People who are allergic to iodine or shellfish (lobster, crab, or shrimp) may be allergic to some dyes. Tell your caregiver if you are allergic to shellfish, or have other allergies.

    • Thyroid scan: This test shows caregivers how your thyroid is working. The working part of the thyroid gland absorbs (soaks up) the dye. Two to 48 hours later, caregivers put a machine called a scintillator over your neck. The machine takes pictures showing the areas of your thyroid that absorbed the dye.

    • Ultrasound: This is a test that uses sound waves to look inside your neck. Pictures of your thyroid gland will show up on a TV-like screen. This test may also be used to guide your caregiver during a FNA.

Treatment options:

  • Ethanol injection: Ethanol (alcohol) is given as a shot into your nodules to make them smaller. An ultrasound is used to guide your caregiver as he injects the ethanol into your thyroid gland. Ask your caregiver for more information about ethanol injection treatment.

  • Iodine supplement: 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. This treatment may also help shrink your thyroid nodule.

  • Laser ablation: This treatment uses a laser (high-energy light that does not produce heat) to make your nodule smaller. Ask your caregiver for more information about laser ablation.

  • Surgery: You may need to have all or a part of your thyroid gland removed. Surgery is done if your nodule is found to be cancerous. Lymph nodes (bean-shaped tissue that can trap cancer) may also be removed. You may also need surgery if you have trouble breathing or swallowing, or pain in your neck. Ask your caregiver for more information about thyroid surgery.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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 (Inpatient Care)

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