Your Health: Treating thyroid nodules

Most are non-cancerous, and many go undiscovered or are found by accident during testing for other conditions.
Up to 70% of all adults may have thyroid nodules at one point in their lives.
Published: Nov. 28, 2022 at 1:25 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Up to 70% of all adults may have thyroid nodules at one point in their lives. Most are non-cancerous, and many go undiscovered or are found by accident during testing for other conditions.

Now, doctors are using a non-invasive method to shrink some benign nodules in a procedure that takes less than an hour.

Michelle Bylaw discovered a problem with her thyroid by accident.

“I just happened to be touching my neck and noticed a bump there,” Bylaw said.

It was a thyroid nodule that was not cancerous, but as months went on, the nodule continued to grow.

“I was also getting concerned about whether it would eventually affect my swallowing or anything else in that area,” Bylaw said.

For years, surgery has been the traditional treatment for cancerous thyroid nodules, and for benign nodules that keep growing. Now, doctors at the Cleveland Clinic are among the first to use radiofrequency ablation to treat non-cancerous nodules. Using ultrasound guidance, doctors put a special needle into the nodule.

“We start the ablation process, which involves delivering a certain amount of energy for the needles so that the nodule is heated,” said Dr. Eren Berber, an endocrine surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic.

The procedure lasts up to an hour. Over a three-to-six-month period, the medical team uses ultrasound to monitor the nodule.

“Within six months, you can get up to about 50% reduction of the size of the nodule in terms of its volume,” said Dr. Berber.

For Michelle, the procedure meant she could avoid invasive surgery. “It made the recovery a lot faster and it was a lot less painful than I anticipated,” Bylaw said.

Doctors say right now, the radio frequency ablation procedure is offered to selected patients with benign tumors. It is not for patients with thyroid cancer.

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