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Thyroid/Parathyroid


Doctor, tell me more about my Thyroid Gland...
Fine Needle Aspiration



Doctor, tell me more about my Thyroid Gland...


Information about thyroid disorders

What is Your Thyroid Gland?

Your thyroid gland is one of the endocrine glands, which make hormones to thyroid cancer disease hypthyroid allergy Dallas Fort Worth  Plano Texasregulate physiological functions in your body. The thyroid gland manufactures thyroid hormone, which regulates the rate at which your body carries on its necessary functions. Other endocrine glands are the pancreas, the pituitary, the adrenal glands, the parathyroid glands, the testes, and the ovaries.

The thyroid gland is located in the middle of the lower neck, below the larynx (voice box) and just above your clavicles (collarbones). It is shaped like a "bow tie," having two halves (lobes): a right lobe and a left lobe joined by an "isthmus". You can't always feel a normal thyroid gland.

When Is a Thyroid Gland Abnormal?

Diseases of the thyroid gland are very common, affecting millions of Americans. The most common diseases are an over- or under-active gland. These conditions are called hyperthyroidism (e.g., Grave's disease) and hypothyroidism. Sometimes the thyroid gland can become enlarged from over-activity (as in Grave's disease) or from under-activity (as in hypothyroidism). An enlarged thyroid gland is often called a "goiter." Sometimes an inflammation of the thyroid gland (Hashimoto's disease) will cause enlargement of the gland.

Patients may develop "lumps" or "masses" in their thyroid glands. They may appear gradually or very rapidly. Patients who had radiation therapy to the head or neck as children for acne, adenoids, or other reasons are more prone to develop thyroid malignancy. A doctor should evaluate all thyroid "lumps" (nodules).

How Does Your Doctor Make the Diagnosis?

The diagnosis of a thyroid abnormality in function or a thyroid mass is made by taking a medical history and a physical examination. Specifically, your doctor will examine your neck and ask you to lift up your chin to make your thyroid gland more prominent. You may be asked to swallow during the examination, which helps to feel the thyroid and any mass in it. Other tests your doctor may order include:

An ultrasound examination of your neck and thyroid
Blood tests of thyroid function
A radioactive thyroid scan
A fine needle aspiration biopsy
A chest X-ray
A CT or MRI scan
Fine Needle Aspiration

If a lump in your thyroid is diagnosed, your doctor may recommend a fine needle aspiration biopsy. This is a safe, relatively painless procedure. A hypodermic needle is passed into the lump, and samples of tissues are taken. Often several passes with the needle are required. There is little pain afterward and very few complications from the procedure occur. This test gives the doctor more information on the nature of the lump in your thyroid gland and specifically will help to differentiate a benign from a malignant thyroid mass.

Treatment of Thyroid Disease

Abnormalities of thyroid function (hyper or hypothyroidism) are usually treated medically. If there is insufficient production of thyroid hormone, this may be given in a form of a thyroid hormone pill taken daily. Hyperthyroidism is treated mostly by medical means, but occasionally it may require the surgical removal of the thyroid gland.

If there is a lump of the thyroid or a diffused enlargement (goiter), your doctor will propose a treatment plan based on the examination and your test results. Most thyroid "lumps" are benign. Often they may be treated with thyroid hormone, and this is called "suppression" therapy. The object of this treatment is to attempt shrinkage of the mass over time, usually three-six months. If the lump continues to grow during treatment when you are taking the medication, most doctors will recommend removal of the affected lump.

If the fine needle aspiration is reported as suspicious for or suggestive of cancer, then thyroid surgery is required.

What Is Thyroid Surgery?

Thyroid surgery is an operation to remove part or all of the thyroid gland. It is performed in the hospital, and general anesthesia is usually required. Usually the operation removes the lobe of the thyroid gland containing the lump and possibly the isthmus. A frozen section (an immediate microscopic reading) may or may not be used to determine if the rest of the thyroid gland should be removed. Sometimes, based on the result of the frozen section, the surgeon may decide to stop and remove no more thyroid tissue, or proceed to remove the entire thyroid gland, and/or other tissue in the neck. This is a decision usually made in the operating room by the surgeon, based on findings at the time of surgery. Your surgeon will discuss these options with you preoperatively.

After surgery, you may have a drain (a tiny piece of plastic tubing), which prevents fluid from building up in the wound. This is removed after the fluid accumulation is minimal. Most patients are discharged one to three days after surgery. Complications after thyroid surgery are rare. They include bleeding, a hoarse voice, difficulty swallowing, numbness of the skin on the neck, and low blood calcium. Most complications go away after a few weeks. Patients who have all of their thyroid gland removed have a higher risk of low blood calcium post-operatively.

Patients who have thyroid surgery may be required to take thyroid medication to replace thyroid hormones after surgery. Some patients may need to take calcium replacement if their blood calcium is low. This will depend on how much thyroid gland remains, and what was found during surgery. If you have any questions about thyroid surgery, ask your doctor and he or she will answer them in detail.

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What Is FNA?

Fine needle aspiration (FNA) is a technique that allows a biopsy of various bumps and lumps. It allows your otolaryngologist to retrieve enough tissue for microscopic analysis and thus make an accurate diagnosis of a number of problems, such as inflammation or even cancer.

FNA Is Used for Diagnosis In:

Neck lymph nodes
Neck cysts
Parotid gland
Thyroid gland
Inside the mouth
Any lump that can be felt

Fine Need Biopsy FNA Mass

Why Is It Important?

A mass or lump sometimes indicates a serious problem, such as a growth or cancer*. While this is not always the case, the presence of a mass may require FNA for diagnosis. Your age, sex, and habits, such as smoking and drinking, are also important factors that help diagnosis of a mass. Symptoms of ear pain, increased difficulty swallowing, weight loss, or a history of familial thyroid disorder or of previous skin cancer (squamous cell carcinoma) may be important as well.

* When found early, most cancers in the head and neck can be cured with relatively little difficulty. Cure rates for these cancers are greatly improved if people seek medical advice as soon as possible. So play it safe. If you have a lump in your head and neck area, see your otolaryngologist right away.

What Are Some Areas that Can be Biopsied In This Fashion?

FNA is generally used for diagnosis in areas such as the neck lymph nodes or for cysts in the neck. The parotid gland (the mumps gland), thyroid gland, and other areas inside the mouth or throat can be aspirated as well. Virtually any lump or bump that can be felt (palpated) can be biopsied using the FNA technique.

How Is It Done?

Your doctor will insert a small needle into the mass. Negative pressure is created in the syringe, and as a result of this pressure difference between the syringe and the mass, cellular material can be drawn into the syringe. The needle is moved in a to and fro fashion, obtaining enough material to make a diagnosis. This procedure is generally accurate and frequently prevents the patient from having an open, surgical biopsy, which is more painful and costly. The procedure generally does not require anesthesia. It is about as painful as drawing blood from the arm for laboratory testing (venipuncture). In fact, the needle used for FNA is smaller than that used for venipuncture. Although not painless, any discomfort associated with FNA is usually minimal.

What Are the Complications of This Procedure?

No medical procedure is without risks. Due to the small size of the needle, the chance of spreading a cancer or finding cancer in the needle path is very small. Other complications are rare; the most common is bleeding. If bleeding occurs at all, it is generally seen as a small bruise. Patients who take aspirin, Advil®, or blood thinners, such as Coumadin®, are more at risk to bleed. However, the risk is minimal. Infection is rarely seen.

 

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