Thyroid Nodules and Thyroid Cancer
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in front of the windpipe, low in the neck. Thyroid nodules are very common growths or lumps in the glands, affecting as many as 1 in 3 adult females. The majority of thyroid nodules are benign (noncancerous). Thyroid cancer is present in only approximately 1 of 20 people with thyroid nodules.
Thyroid Cancer Testing
The only way to be sure that a thyroid nodule is not cancerous is to see an endocrinologist or an endocrine surgeon, who may perform a biopsy in the office. The best test to determine the true nature of a thyroid nodule is a fine needle aspiration biopsy (FNAB) with ultrasound guidance, which is performed if the nodule exceeds a half inch or 10 millimeters in diameter. R. Mack Harrell, MD, at Memorial Center for Integrative Endocrine Surgery, has performed more than 5,000 ultrasound-guided thyroid biopsies since 1991. If a diagnosis of cancer is confirmed, specialized thyroid surgery will be necessary.
Thyroid Cancer Surgery
Thyroid cancer is usually curable with meticulous surgery and postoperative radioactive iodine therapy (given by mouth). Standard thyroid removal (as performed for benign conditions such as a goiter) is inadequate, and may leave residual cancer cells behind in the surrounding lymph nodes. Thyroid cancer surgery requires careful excision of the thyroid gland as well as delicate removal of adjacent lymph nodes. The surgery must be performed without injuring the nerves that control vocal cord function or the parathyroid glands, which regulate blood calcium levels.
Surgery should be performed by an endocrine oncology surgeon trained in thyroid cancer surgery, with seven to eight years of surgical training after medical school. David Bimston, MD, at Memorial Center for Integrative Endocrine Surgery, has dedicated his medical career to endocrine oncology and thyroid cancer surgery since his surgical residency in the 1990s.
Drs. Harrell and Bimston have successfully diagnosed and treated hundreds of patients with thyroid cancer.
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