Thyroid Nodule Care at the Inova Schar Cancer Institute

The Inova Schar Cancer Institute Endocrine Tumor Program provides exceptional care for patients with  thyroid, parathyroid and adrenal tumors. This spring, the Endocrine Tumor Program will open a new Thyroid Nodule Clinic, which will help patients with thyroid nodules receive effective, coordinated care from a team of experts. Patients and referring doctors can sign up for an evaluation through the Inova Saville Cancer Screening and Prevention Center.

The Thyroid Nodule Clinic brings together experts to provide multidisciplinary thyroid care for patients with thyroid nodules. The Inova Schar Cancer Institute houses the technology to image and biopsy nodules, as well as the expertise to provide all required treatments in one location.

“Thyroid nodules are commonly diagnosed during a physical exam or as an incidental finding during routine imaging, but people often do not know what to do with this information,” said Jina Kim, M.D., an endocrine surgeon with the Endocrine Tumor Program  at the Inova Schar Cancer Institute. “The Thyroid Nodule Clinic at Saville is a one-stop resource for patients and referring providers to find the experts who can advise on the best way to manage and treat thyroid nodules.”

What is the thyroid?

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland found in the front of the neck that wraps around the windpipe. It produces hormones that help control body temperature, digestion, heart functions and metabolism.

What is a thyroid nodule?

A thyroid nodule is a lump of cells that grow on the gland. The nodule can be a solid or fluid-filled. The cause for the overgrowth of cells remains unclear. Most nodules do not produce any symptoms. Thyroid nodules are commonly identified during a routine physical exam.

How common are thyroid nodules?

Thyroid nodules are very common in adults. According to the American Thyroid Association, half of Americans over the age of 60 will have at least one nodule on their thyroid that can be found during a physical examination or imaging. Most nodules are noncancerous (benign). Fewer than 5% of all thyroid nodules are cancerous.

What tests are available to check a nodule?

The Thyroid Nodule Clinic provides patients with pre-diagnostic counseling to explain the different procedures your thyroid nodule team may request. The team helps the patient navigate through the different procedures and ensure appropriate appointments are scheduled to ensure a seamless plan for the appropriate treatment.

A blood test may be ordered to evaluate thyroid function. An ultrasound technician may use this imaging technique to evaluate the shape and structure of the nodule. Finally, a pathologist may take a small sample of the nodule during fine-needle aspiration. The cells are examined under magnification to evaluate if they are benign or cancerous.

What is the treatment for a benign nodule?

A benign thyroid nodule contains cells that do not spread to other parts of the body. Your doctor may make a note to watch the nodule during future exams or perform routine ultrasound exams to image the nodule to ensure it does not change and require additional treatment.

Noncancerous nodules may require surgery if they grow too large and interfere with a person’s ability to breath or swallow. Also, thyroid radio-frequency ablation is a newer, minimally-invasive outpatient procedure. It is performed under local anesthesia to treat noncancerous thyroid nodules. During the procedure, a small needle electrode is inserted into the nodule to heat targeted cells and destroy the tissue.

If the thyroid is not functioning properly, a patient may receive thyroid hormone therapy or radioactive iodine, to ensure an appropriate level of thyroid hormones are available for the body to function.

What is the treatment for a cancerous nodule?

Patients diagnosed with thyroid cancer at the Thyroid Nodule Clinic will be connected to a team of experts in surgery, endocrinology and oncology at the Inova Schar Cancer Institute. Patients will receive counseling about additional labs, imaging, biopsy and treatment that may be needed to best manage the thyroid cancer. The Inova Schar Cancer Institute team will help patients  navigate the different stages of treatment while maintaining a line of communication with the referring physician.

How can I sign up for an appointment?

Patients or referring physicians can obtain input from the experts at the Inova Schar Cancer Institute Thyroid Nodule Clinic through the Inova Saville Cancer Screening and Prevention Center.

“Physicians and patients want an accurate diagnosis and expedient management of their thyroid nodule,” said Kim. “The Thyroid Nodule Clinic is a great resource for any patient with a thyroid nodule.”

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