A thyroid nodule is a small swelling or lump in the thyroid gland. These nodules represent either a growth of thyroid tissue or a fluid-filled cyst, which forms a lump in the thyroid gland. Thyroid nodules are common.
Almost half of the population will have tiny thyroid nodules at some point in their lives but, typically, these are not noticeable until they become large and affect normal thyroid size. About 5 percent of people develop significant sized nodules, greater than a half inch across (about 1 centimeter). More than 90 percent of thyroid nodules are not harmful or cancerous.
An individual may not be aware of the nodule's presence until it starts to grow, resulting in an enlarged thyroid. A doctor may feel it, however, when he or she carefully examines the thyroid gland.
If a nodule has fluid in it, it is called a cyst. To treat it, the doctor will probably drain it or monitor it for change. If these nodules return, then they may need to be removed. Nodules that have only fluid are usually non-cancerous, but nodules that have some fluid and some solid matter can be cancerous and need to undergo thyroid cancer treatment.
Nodules should be checked by a doctor. Tests can usually tell if a nodule is harmless or harmful and which treatment would be best. A nodule may be cancerous if the lymph nodes under the jaw are swollen and if it grows quickly, feels hard, and causes pain. Cancerous nodules also tend to cause hoarseness or difficulty with swallowing or breathing.