A thyroid nodule is an abnormal growth of thyroid cells within the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland that is located in the lower front of the neck. Its job is to make thyroid hormone. Thyroid hormone helps the body use energy, stay warm and allow other organs in the body to operate correctly.

Typically, there are no symptoms if you have a thyroid nodule. Most of the time, they are discovered by a health care provider during routine exams, imaging studies for unrelated reasons, or a patient might notice or feel a small lump on their neck. 

Although most thyroid nodules are non-cancerous (90% of cases), a small number are discovered to be thyroid cancer. There are no known causes for why thyroid nodules form in the neck.

Once you are referred to an endocrinologist, the provider will order blood tests and use imaging or fine needle biopsy to confirm whether the nodule is cancerous. 

If cancer is detected, a patient would be referred to a thyroid surgeon. Should the lump be benign, your provider will keep a watchful eye on it to make sure it isn’t growing or causing any other underlying issues.

Aubrey Carhill, M.D., is an endocrinologist with UT Physicians at Sienna Village. Dr. Carhill has experience in the clinical management of patients with a broad spectrum of general endocrine disorders as well as endocrine oncology, thyroid disorders, and thyroid cancer.