Your thyroid is one of the endocrine glands which make hormones to regulate physiological functions in your body. The thyroid gland manufactures thyroid hormone, which regulates the rate at which your body carries on its necessary functions. The thyroid gland is located in the middle of the lower neck, below the larynx (voice box) and just above your clavicle (collar-bone).
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 (Grave's disease) and hypothyroidism. Sometimes the thyroid gland can become enlarged from overactivity (as in Grave's disease) or from underactivity (as in hypothyroidism). An enlarged thyroid gland is often called a "goiter."
Patients may develop nodules in their thyroid glands. These can either be benign or malignant. They may appear gradually or very rapidly. All thyroid nodules should generate suspicion and a visit to the doctor. After diagnosing a thyroid nodule, your doctor may recommend a fine needle aspiration of the nodule for further evaluation. This is a safe, relatively painless procedure.
What Treatment Options are Available?
Once a diagnosis has been made, a treatment plan will be proposed by your doctor based on his examination and your test results. If the fine needle aspiration is atypical or suggestive of a malignancy, then thyroid surgery is required.
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 nodule and possibly the isthmus. A frozen section (an immediate pathological reading) may or may not be used to determine if the rest of the thyroid gland should be removed. These options will be discussed by your surgeon with you preoperatively.