Fine Needle Aspiration Biopsy of the Thyroid

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Fine needle aspiration biopsy facts

  • Fine needle aspiration biopsy (FNAB) of the thyroid is a procedure used to detect cancer in a thyroid nodule or to treat thyroid cysts.
  • The chance that a thyroid nodule is malignant varies with age, gender, radiation exposure, and other factors.
  • fine needle aspiration biopsy is performed in a doctor's office and takes about 20 minutes.
  • Complications are rare, but include bleeding, bruising, and infection.
  • Results help determine further management and treatment and are usually available within a week.

What are thyroid nodules?

The thyroid gland is found in the neck just below the "Adam's apple." This gland is responsible for producing thyroid hormone, which is an important hormone that stimulates the metabolism of the body. Thyroid nodules are so common that up to half of all people have one, without any symptoms or effect. Like many things, the thyroid gland gets "lumpier" as we get older and the frequency of these nodules increases with age. In fact, many are found incidentally during routine examinations or radiology testing. Thyroid nodules are also more common in women than in men. Interestingly, because women have so many more nodules than men, the incidence of detected cancer is higher in women than in men by virtue of absolute numbers. However, each individual nodule is more likely to be cancerous if found in a man.

Doctors always hold a degree of concern whenever a new growth is detected on the body, regardless of the tissue involved. The concern is whether or not the growth or nodule is cancer. Fortunately, fewer than 10% of thyroid nodules are malignant. The majority of thyroid nodules are harmless growths, known as adenomas, and are contained within a capsule. Even though cancerous nodules are uncommon, the doctor will take the necessary measures to be certain.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/31/2014

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