Thyroid neoplasm refers to a new growth present on the thyroid gland. These growths or tumors can either be benign or malignant. Typically, malignant thyroid tumors are known as thyroid cancer. Generally, a malignant tumor of the thyroid is seen less frequently than those of a benign nature. Malignant thyroid neoplasm frequently has a favorable prognosis, however, quick recognition and medical intervention is important. The incidence of thyroid cancer is higher in women, and in those in their 30s and 40s.
Typically, certain risk factors may be important in the development of a malignant thyroid neoplasm. These generally include radiation exposure. This is especially evident in a type of neoplasm called papillary thyroid cancer. People who were exposed to radiation from bombs and fallout from nuclear power plants have been shown to have a higher incidence of malignant thyroid neoplasm, however, the low-dose radiation that is received from medical imaging examinations has not been implicated in having tumorigenic effects.
Generally, a thyroid neoplasm presents as a palpable, painless, solitary nodule, located in the thyroid gland. Frequently, the physician, or the patient discovers the nodule during neck palpation. It is important to note that palpable nodules of the thyroid gland are present in about four to seven percent of the population and usually, these signify benign disease. The age of the patient at diagnosis is also important because solitary thyroid nodules are more likely to be cancerous in those patients over 60 years old and in those under 30 years old.
The physical examination of the patient who presents with thyroid nodules should include a comprehensive examination of the head and neck, with careful concentration given to the cervical soft tissues and thyroid gland. Generally, fixed, hard nodules are often more indicative of malignant thyroid neoplasm than are mobile, supple nodules. In addition, a thyroid cancer is typically not tender and painless upon palpation. Laboratory evaluation and biopsy are also important diagnostic factors in diagnosing thyroid cancer.
A malignant thyroid neoplasm typically requires surgical intervention. The removal of the thyroid gland frequently cures the problem, however, the surrounding tissue may require biopsy to determine if the tumor has metastasized or spread to other areas. In addition, thyroid replacement hormone medication may be needed to replace the hormones that the removed thyroid gland produced. Follow up medical exams are also important and may involve the expertise of an endocrinologist, a doctor specializing in the thyroid gland.