Thyroid Nodules: Advances in Evaluation and Management

Ravi Kant, Amanda Davis, Vipin Verma
American Family Physician 2020 September 1, 102 (5): 298-304
Thyroid nodules can be detected by ultrasonography in up to 68% of the general population. They are typically benign and are often discovered incidentally. The primary goal of thyroid nodule evaluation is to determine whether it is malignant. After thyroid ultrasonography has been performed, the next step is measurement of serum thyroid-stimulating hormone. If levels are low, a radionuclide thyroid uptake scan is indicated. Hyperfunctioning nodules are rarely malignant and do not require tissue sampling. Nonfunctioning nodules and nodules in a patient with a normal or high thyroid-stimulating hormone level may require fine-needle aspiration based on ultrasound characteristics and size. Nodules with suspicious features and solid hypoechoic nodules 1 cm or larger require aspiration. The Bethesda System (categories 1 through 6) is used to classify samples. Molecular testing can be used to guide treatment when aspiration yields an indeterminate result. Molecular testing detects mutations associated with thyroid cancer and can help inform decisions about surgical excision vs. continued ultrasound monitoring. Treatment of pregnant women with nonfunctioning thyroid nodules and of children with thyroid nodules is similar to that for nonpregnant adults, with the exception of molecular testing, which has not been validated in these populations.

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