Fine Needle Aspiration Biopsy of the Thyroid

  • Medical Author:
    Ruchi Mathur, MD, FRCP(C)

    Ruchi Mathur, MD, FRCP(C) is an Attending Physician with the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism and Associate Director of Clinical Research, Recruitment and Phenotyping with the Center for Androgen Related Disorders, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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Quick GuideThyroid Anatomy, Symptoms, and Disorders

Thyroid Anatomy, Symptoms, and Disorders

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 5/21/2015
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