Women holding her throat with the thyroid gland highlighted in red

Goiter and Benign Thyroid Nodules

If you have a diagnosis or suspicion of goiter or thyroid nodules, you’ll need the expertise of the thyroid experts at Roswell Park.

What is a goiter?

A goiter is an enlarged thyroid gland, which can be caused by certain medications or not having enough iodine in your diet — but most of the time it’s due to unknown reasons. A goiter may be small or extremely large, and it may cause such symptoms as trouble swallowing, food sticking in your throat or difficulty breathing.

What are thyroid nodules?

Thyroid nodules are lumps in the thyroid that are either solid or filled with fluid. Most are nothing to worry about and won’t cause any symptoms. In some cases, however, you can see or feel a lump, and it may be hard to breathe or swallow. If you are having these symptoms, you should take steps to find out whether you have benign (non-cancerous) thyroid nodules or thyroid cancer.

Are thyroid nodules cancerous?

Because it can be difficult to tell the difference between benign thyroid nodules and thyroid cancer, it’s important to have your case reviewed by pathologists who have substantial experience in the diagnosis of thyroid cancer. Roswell Park’s Pathology Department includes three of these experts.

We work closely with endocrinologists and primary care physicians in the community to make or confirm an initial diagnosis and create a treatment plan that will work best for you. 

Treating goiters or thyroid nodules

If you have a goiter or benign thyroid nodules that are not causing symptoms, your Roswell Park physician may suggest active surveillance (“watchful waiting”) instead of starting active treatment right away. By monitoring the situation on a regular basis, you may be able to delay treatment and its side effects until symptoms begin.

If symptoms have already begun, your primary care physician or endocrinologist may prescribe medication, such as thyroid hormone replacement, to normalize thyroid activity. If the goiter is large or causes serious symptoms — making it hard to swallow or breathe, for example — surgery or radioactive iodine therapy may be recommended. Both are offered at Roswell Park.

Surgery to correct a large goiter involves removing all or part of the thyroid. Our surgeons specialize in minimally invasive thyroid surgery, using incisions as small as two centimeters to reduce scarring. If the entire thyroid gland is removed, you may need to take medication for the rest of your life to replace the thyroid hormone that will no longer be produced by your thyroid.

With the expert care provided at Roswell Park, most patients who have a goiter or benign thyroid nodules will have an excellent chance of returning to good health, free of thyroid-related symptoms.

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