ZocdocAnswersHow can one detect abnormal thyroid cells?

Question

How can one detect abnormal thyroid cells?

How does a person get a diagnosis for abnormal thyroid cells? I am being seen by a doctor later this week to determine whether I have a malfunctioning thyroid, but I don't understand exactly what the procedure will be like or whether it'll be painful. What should I expect?

Answer

The thyroid examination involves several steps. First, your doctor will start by asking you questions about your past medical history, if you have any risk factors for thyroid disease (such as exposure to radiation or a family history of thyroid abnormalities), and if you have noticed any recent changes (such as feeling more hot or cold than those around you). Next, he or she will examine you to note any differences in the size of the thyroid, asymmetry, and to see if there are any "palpable nodules," or any notable lumps or bumps in your neck. The next step is often to perform some sort of imaging. Sometimes physicians will use a CT scan or an ultrasound to get a better idea of what is going on with the thyroid. Other physicians will combine that step (an ultrasound) with the next step, a Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA). This step helps because a small sample of your thyroid can be sent to a pathologist for review under a microscope. Please note that this is not always successful, as your doctor might not get enough tissue, or the pathologist might not be able to adequately differentiate just based on the aspiration. The procedure itself is quick, but is somewhat uncomfortable, as it involves passing a needle into a nodule on your neck.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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