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What is the thyroid gland?

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that lies in front of the trachea (windpipe). It sits in front of the neck just below the larynx (voice box) at the notch at the top of the manubrium (breast bone). The thyroid gland is an endocrine gland that uses iodine from food to make two thyroid hormones that control the way the body uses energy, makes proteins and also controls other hormones. Endocrine glands produce hormones. Often it is not easy to feel your own thyroid, so don’t worry if you can’t feel it, that’s a good thing.


I can feel a swelling or lump in my thyroid – should I have this assessed?

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Any swelling of the gland should be investigated. A swelling in the gland is often referred to as a thyroid nodule. This is a discrete swelling and feels like a lump in the neck. It may move when you swallow and can vary from soft to rock hard.

 

The term thyroid nodule refers to any abnormal growth of thyroid cells that develops into a lump within the thyroid. Although the vast majority of thyroid nodules are benign (non-cancerous), a small proportion of thyroid nodules do contain thyroid cancer. Because of this possibility, your surgeon’s priority when he assesses you is to exclude a thyroid cancer.


How is the thyroid nodule assessed?

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Our surgeons offer a ‘one-stop’ diagnostic neck lump clinic where you will have access to a surgeon, radiologist and pathologist at a single appointment with the objective of offering a complete thyroid nodule assessment concluding with a diagnosis and treatment plan.

 

The assessment includes:

  • Medical history
  • Examination including inspection of the throat, voice box, and neck, using a small mirror and/or lights.
  • Endoscopy of the throat, and voice box. Endoscopy involves assessment of the inside surfaces of the body using a very thin, lighted tube called an endoscope.
  • Ultrasound scan of the neck performed by a specialist radiologist. This scan uses high-frequency sound waves to obtain a picture of the thyroid and assess the size and nature of the nodule(s). Some ultrasound findings of a nodule are more frequent in thyroid cancer than in non-cancerous nodules. Even so, the thyroid ultrasound alone is rarely able to determine if a nodule is a thyroid cancer.
  • Fine needle aspirate biopsy (FNA) of the neck lump. This procedure is a routine test and can be very useful for diagnosis. A small needle passed into the neck lump through the overlying skin sucks a small amount of cells out of the lump.You can go straight back to work after the test.
  • Immediate FNA cytology assessment by a pathologist, who is present in the clinic and studies the tissue under a microscope to make a diagnosis. A biopsy is the only sure way to tell whether a person has cancer.
  • Biopsy of any other abnormality found during the examination may be taken following administration of local anaesthesia.

 

The complete assessment and consultation with provision of results is completed in approximately 45 minutes.

 

Visit the neck lump clinic page for more info


Would you like to arrange a consultation?
Our Practice Manager can assist you with any queries and with booking consultations.
Call us 09 630 2920
Email us info@ahns.co.nz
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