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Diagnostic approach to and treatment of thyroid nodules

Douglas S Ross, MD
Section Editor
David S Cooper, MD
Deputy Editor
Jean E Mulder, MD


Thyroid nodules come to clinical attention when noted by the patient, by a physician during routine physical examination, or during a radiologic procedure, such as carotid ultrasonography, neck computed tomography (CT), or positron emission tomography (PET) scanning. Their clinical importance is primarily related to the need to exclude thyroid cancer, which accounts for 4.0 to 6.5 percent of all thyroid nodules in non-surgical series.

The diagnostic evaluation and treatment of thyroid nodules will be reviewed here. Fine needle aspiration (FNA) techniques and common cytopathologic findings are reviewed elsewhere. (See "Thyroid biopsy" and "Atlas of thyroid cytopathology".)


Several different disorders can cause thyroid nodules (table 1). The clinical importance of the thyroid nodule evaluation is primarily related to the need to exclude thyroid cancer, which is present in 4.0 to 6.5 percent of thyroid nodules [1-4]. The prevalence of cancer is higher in several groups:


Adults less than 30 or over 60 years old


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Literature review current through: Sep 2016. | This topic last updated: Jan 22, 2016.
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