The thyroid is a large endocrine gland located in a person's neck. This gland controls the hormones that influence the body's growth rate and metabolism. A thyroid lesion, sometimes called a thyroid nodule, occurs when abnormal lumps appear on a person's thyroid. There can be multiple causes for a thyroid lesion. These causes can include iodine deficiency, chronic inflammation and cancer.
Thyroid lesions often have no symptoms. Many times, these lesions are discovered by a doctor when a patient makes an appointment after complaining of other symptoms, such as rapid weight loss. If the lesion is large enough, a person might be able to feel the nodule on his or her own neck.
One cause of a thyroid lesion is a lack of iodine in the body. Nodules caused by a lack of iodine typically are called goiters. An iodine deficiency can be easily corrected by adding supplements or more food with iodine to a person's diet. In some countries, iodine deficiencies are rare because most table salt used in those countries contains iodine.
Chronic inflammation of the thyroid gland can also cause nodules to form. An autoimmune disorder called Hashimoto's disease is often responsible for this level of inflammation. This condition causes the immune system to attack the thyroid. This disorder can be controlled with medications. A doctor might choose to remove begin nodules surgically if they are causing a patient too much pain.
Thyroid cancer is not common, but it still needs to be taken into consideration whenever there are nodules on someone's thyroid. People who are more than 60 years old or people who have a family history of thyroid cancer are more likely to be at risk than other people. A fine-needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy is a test performed on thyroid lesion to see whether it is cancerous. A doctor will use a thin needle to take cells from each nodule that is present.
If a person is diagnosed with thyroid cancer, surgery is a must. All nodules are usually removed at this time. In some cases, the entire thyroid gland might even need to be removed. A person who gets his or her thyroid gland removed will need to take treatments for the rest of his or her life to give the body the correct amount of hormones for which the thyroid usually is responsible. The risks of thyroid surgery include vocal cord injury and trauma to the parathyroid glands.