Your body’s thyroid plays an important role in the regulation of your metabolism, which is the conversion of oxygen and food calories into energy. In fact, every cell in your body relies upon the thyroid hormone for proper functioning.
Some people can develop thyroid nodules, which are lumps that commonly grow on the thyroid gland. These lumps are usually found at the edge of the thyroid gland, so they can actually be felt from outside the body. They can sometimes be detected by human touch or seen from the front of the neck in the case of very thin people.
Here are some facts regarding nodules:
* Thyroid nodules are fairly common young women, with about 1 in 15 having them.
* Meanwhile, about 1 in 40 young men have thyroid nodules.
* The vast majority – about 95% – are non-cancerous.
* Almost everyone develops a thyroid nodule by the time they turn fifty
Thyroid Nodule and the Esophagus
Some people with these nodules wonder about the nodules’ effects on the esophagus. In its normal state, the thyroid is located just above the Adam’s apple in the throat, draping around the trachea (or windpipe) and pressing lightly against the esophagus (part of the throat that leads to the stomach).
However, a thyroid with nodules can sometimes be painful, and if the nodules get large enough they can put pressure on the trachea and/or esophagus. This is a condition known as compression and can lead to difficulty swallowing, frequent coughing, and other problems.
3 Facts You Should Know
If you have been diagnosed as having nodules, here are 3 facts you should know:
1. Most nodules show no symptoms:
Most thyroid nodules have no symptoms. When they are detected, they are sometimes found by patients who feel a lump in their throat or who see it in the mirror. In other cases, an acquaintance of the patient may notice an odd lump in the patient’s neck. Or, a routine physician’s exam might result in the detection of a thyroid nodule.
2. Nodules can be discovered when the patient is undergoing medical scans:
In the cases whereby nodules are not detected visually or by the feeling of a lump in the throat, a patient undergoing a medical scan for an unrelated reason may have their nodules detected by a doctor or lab technician. This can happen with scans like CT scans, MRI scans or ultrasound scans. Fortunately, thyroid nodules found this way are cancerous less than 1% of the time.
3. Once you are diagnosed, your doctor will run tests and perform examinations to determine the answers to these three questions about each thyroid nodule that is detected:
a. Is the nodule cancerous? (remember, there is only a 5% chance of this being the case).
b. Is the nodule causing compression (i.e., pressing on other structures in the neck)?
c. Is the nodule making too much thyroid hormone?
Once a thyroid is detected, your physician will likely ask you a number of questions about your health and its relationship to your thyroid nodules. For example, he or she may ask you whether you have been exposed to nuclear radiation or have received radiation treatments as a child. Your physician will then explore treatment options with you.