Management of the Solitary Thyroid Nodule
The Alfred Hospital, Monash University Endocrine Surgery Unit, Melbourne, Australia.The Oncologist (Impact Factor: 4.87). 03/2008; 13(2):105-12. DOI: 10.1634/theoncologist.2007-0212
Thyroid nodules are common, with up to 8% of the adult population having palpable nodules. With the use of ultrasound, up to 10 times more nodules are likely to be detected. Increasing numbers of nodules are being detected serendipitously because of the rising use of imaging to investigate unrelated conditions. The primary aim in investigating a thyroid nodule is to exclude the possibility of malignancy, which occurs in about 5% of nodules. This begins with a thorough history, including previous exposure to radiation and any family history of thyroid cancer or other endocrine diseases. Clinical examination of the neck should focus on the thyroid nodule and the gland itself, but also the presence of any cervical lymphadenopathy. Biochemical assessment of the thyroid needs to be followed by thyroid ultrasound, which may demonstrate features that are associated with a higher chance of the nodule being malignant. Fine-needle aspiration biopsy is crucial in the investigation of a thyroid nodule. It provides highly accurate cytologic information about the nodule from which a definitive management plan can be formulated. The challenge remains in the management of nodules that fall under the "indeterminate" category. These may be subject to more surgical intervention than is required because histological examination is the only way in which a malignancy can be excluded. Surgery followed by radioactive iodine ablation is the mainstay of treatment for differentiated thyroid cancers, and the majority of patients can expect high cure rates.