Majority of the thyroid nodules are picked up incidentally on testing being performed for some other reason. Lets start by discussing- what is a thyroid nodule? These are solid or liquids (called cystic) or mixed (solid and liquid) growths in the thyroid gland. These are very common, up to 30% of the population. Thyroid cancer also starts as nodules, however thyroid cancer is uncommon. So based on statistics, majority of the thyroid nodules found in routine testing are not cancers. Most of the thyroid nodules have no symptoms. Once we find thyroid nodules, these do need to be followed up by thyroid specialists.
Thyroid nodules are diagnosed with an increasing frequency. Anytime there is a diagnostic test performed, such MRI of cervical spine, CT scan of neck or chest, carotid Doppler, etc., incidental thyroid nodules are reported. The incidence of finding a thyroid nodule can be up to 30% in general population. The next step is evaluation by a head and neck surgeon with investigations which include ultrasound of the thyroid and thyroid function test. Depending on the size, character of the nodule and risk factors, ultrasound guided biopsy is done for cytology evaluation. Thankfully majority of the thyroid nodules are benign and require no treatment.