Most thyroid nodules do not cause problems and are not cancerous. They are often hard to notice because they are so small. Lots of people have thyroid nodules that are never found or treated. There are three kinds of thyroid nodules: solid nodules, nodules that are filled with fluid (cystic nodules), and nodules that are partially cystic. You can have one thyroid nodule or several thyroid nodules (multinodular goiter).
You can also have some nodules that are solid and some that are cystic. Solid nodules may grow slowly over time. In rare cases, cystic nodules bleed, which can cause them to grow suddenly and become painful. Thyroid nodules usually do not prevent the thyroid gland from doing its job. But sometimes a noncancerous thyroid nodule can cause:
- Hyperthyroidism. - when one or more nodules makes too much thyroid hormone. Hyperthyroidism is treated with antithyroid medicine, possibly radioactive iodine, and very rarely, surgery. Hyperthyroidism from thyroid nodules is not very common. It occurs in fewer than 1 out of 100 people who have thyroid nodules.
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing. -Sometimes, one or more large nodules can press on your windpipe (trachea) or on your esophagus. These kinds of nodules have to be surgically removed.
- Only about 5 out of 100 thyroid nodules are cancerous.
- Thyroid nodules are simply "lumps" which are either solid or fluid-filled.
- The main function of the thyroid gland in the neck is to make thyroid hormone, which is essential for normal growth and metabolism.
- Autopsy studies have revealed that up to 50% of all adults die carrying at least one thyroid nodule. These people may or may not have been aware of the presence of their thyroid nodules.
- Thyroid nodules are found more commonly as people age.
- Most of these thyroid nodules are benign and not cancerous.
- Only 5% of all thyroid nodules will be discovered to be thyroid cancer.
- Finding cancer in a thyroid nodule is more likely in a person under the age of 30 or over the age of 60.