Fine-Needle Aspiration Biopsy of the Thyroid (cont.)

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Fine needle aspiration biopsy (FNAB) of the thyroid gland; why is it done?

A biopsy to obtain tissue for analysis is the best technique for detecting or ruling out the presence of cancer. For many years, a core biopsy of the thyroid was the procedure of choice. This method involved a large biopsy, which was often more difficult for patients. fine needle aspiration biopsy has now become the method of choice for obtaining samples of thyroid tissue. The procedure is technically quite simple. When performed properly, the testing has a false negative rate of less than 5%. This means that a positive finding, such as cancer, will be missed fewer than five times out of 100.

The fine needle aspiration is also performed to treat thyroid cysts. A thyroid cyst is a fluid-filled sac within the thyroid gland. Aspiration of the cyst with a needle and syringe can shrink the swelling from the cyst and the fluid removed can be analyzed for cancer.

Should fine needle aspiration biopsy be done on all thyroid nodules?

There are certain situations in which your physician may elect not to perform a biopsy of a nodule. For example, in a patient with an over- active thyroid (hyperthyroidism), the chance for a nodule to be cancerous is significantly less, particularly if other studies (such as nuclear thyroid imaging) show that the nodule is producing thyroid hormone (a "hot" nodule).

A doctor may recommend fine needle aspiration biopsy of the thyroid in the following situations:

  • To make a diagnosis of a thyroid nodule;
  • To help select therapy for a thyroid nodule;
  • To drain a cyst that may be causing pain; or
  • To inject a medication to shrink a recurrent cyst.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/31/2014

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