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What Can Happen If a Thyroid Nodule Is Left Untreated?

What Can Happen If a Thyroid Nodule Is Left Untreated?

Let’s start this blog with an important point — thyroid nodules are incredibly common, and about half of people in the United States develop at least one by the time they reach age 60. While most nodules don’t present any danger, it’s important to have them checked out, especially if you’ve developed symptoms.

An endocrinologist who specializes in thyroid health, Dr. Sean P. Nikravan has extensive experience with thyroid disease. If you’ve developed a nodule, or you’re unsure whether you have a thyroid problem, it’s important to educate yourself about the potential complications that can develop due to these growths.

Thyroid nodules — mostly benign

While thyroid nodules are incredibly common, it’s important to underscore another point — up to 90% of thyroid nodules are benign, which means they’re noncancerous. In fact, many nodules don’t produce any symptoms, so you may be unaware that one exists.

That said, 45,000 people are diagnosed with thyroid cancer each year in the US, with women outpacing men by slightly less than 3-to-1. While these numbers may be low relative to other cancers, when we discover a nodule, especially when you’re experiencing symptoms, it’s worth having us investigate further.

This may include a thyroid nodule biopsy that detects whether there are abnormal cells so we can take swift action if needed. It’s worth noting that thyroid cancer is very treatable, which explains why the number of deaths due to thyroid cancer are low — about 3,000 people each year.

When thyroid nodules affect function

While the majority of thyroid nodules don’t produce symptoms and are benign, there are times when a nodule, even a benign one, can interfere with thyroid function — meaning, your thyroid’s production of hormones — and create symptoms if left untreated.

Depending upon the type of nodule, there are are generally two results of a problematic nodule:

Because your thyroid hormones regulate how your body converts energy (your metabolism), the side effects of untreated hyper- or hypothyroidism can be quite significant and on opposite ends of the spectrum. 

For example, you may feel jumpy and nervous with hyperthyroidism while you feel lethargic and fatigued with hypothyroidism. Or perhaps you’re losing weight inexplicably (hyperthyroidism) or you’re gaining weight for no reason (hypothyroidism).

Other thyroid nodule symptoms

While thyroid nodules can affect the function of your thyroid gland, some nodules simply become so large or numerous that they lead to:

These symptoms are uncommon, but when they occur, make an appointment with us.

Treating problematic thyroid nodules

If we find a thyroid nodule that requires treatment, we offer an advanced, and minimally invasive, solution called radiofrequency ablation. During this procedure, Dr. Nikravan inserts a small instrument into the tissue using ultrasound to guide him. Once in place, Dr. Nikravan releases radiofrequency energy into the tissue to destroy it.

For more information on thyroid nodules, please contact our office in Newport Beach, California, to set up an appointment.

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