Biopsy - Thyroid

This procedure involves the removal of a sample of tissue from the thyroid to check for the presence of abnormal, or cancerous, cells.

This procedure involves the removal of a sample of tissue from the thyroid to check for the presence of abnormal, or cancerous, cells.

A biopsy of the thyroid involves the removal of a sample of tissue from the thyroid gland to check for the presence of abnormal, or cancerous, cells. A biopsy of your thyroid may be recommended if:

  • You have an enlarged thyroid gland
  • A nodule on or within the gland
  • Other symptoms of thyroid cancer

Depending on your specific circumstances, this type of biopsy may be done in the office or hospital.

  • Your neck will be hyperextended by placing a pillow under your shoulders.
  • A numbing medication may be used, but it is not always needed because the needle used for this type of biopsy is very small.

Thyroid cancer can develop at any age, but it is most common in women between forty and fifty years of age and men between sixty and seventy years of age. The risk factors for cancer of the thyroid include:

  • Radiation exposure (such as from previous radiation treatment or nuclear accidents)
  • Radiation therapy to the neck area (usually as a child)
  • A low iodine diet
  • A chronic thyroid goiter
  • Hereditary conditions
  • A family history of thyroid cancer

There are no known ways to prevent thyroid cancer. Being aware of your risk factors can result in the cancer being diagnosed and treated sooner, which improves your prognosis.

Often thyroid cancers do not cause symptoms and are discovered during periodic health exam. When symptoms do occur, they may include:

  • Cough
  • Swallowing difficulty
  • Enlarged thyroid gland
  • Lump on thyroid gland
  • Changes or hoarseness in voice
  • Swelling of the neck

Contact your healthcare provider if you have any of the above symptoms. He or she will review your symptoms and perform a physical examination. They may also recommend one of the following tests:

  • Blood tests to check your calcitonin and thyroid hormone levels
  • A laryngoscopy, an examination of your throat using a special instrument
  • Removal of tissue from the thyroid for examination under a microscope (biopsy)
  • A scan of your thyroid gland
  • An ultrasound of your thyroid gland

If your healthcare provider recommends a thyroid biopsy, prior to the surgery tell them about any medications you are taking (including over-the-counter medications and supplements). Ask about specific instructions you should follow before and after the surgery. These include:

  • Medications you should not take before the procedure, such as blood thinners
  • Regular medications you should continue to take on the day of your procedure
  • How many hours you should stop eating and drinking before the procedure

If your biopsy indicates you do have thyroid cancer, or your cancer has spread, additional testing will most likely be needed.

You should contact your healthcare provider if you have symptoms of thyroid cancer. Be prepared to discuss your symptoms and how long you've had them.

  • Bring a copy of your medical history (past illnesses, surgeries, and hospitalizations).
  • Make a list of your medications (including over-the-counter).
  • Write down any questions, symptoms or concerns you want to talk about.
  • If your healthcare provider prescribes a medication for you, ask for a generic version. If your doctor thinks that a generic version is not right for you, ask for a medication on the lowest available tier of your Prescription Drug List (PDL).

What should I ask my healthcare provider before having a biopsy of my thyroid?

  • What is the reason for the procedure? Are there any alternatives? What are the benefits and risks of each?
  • What are the possible complications for this procedure?
  • What happens if I don't go through with the procedure?
  • Is there any special preparation for the procedure? (If so, get clear instructions on what you need to do.) What kind of sedation will I have? What are the possible side effects?
  • How will I feel after the procedure and will I have to modify my activity?

After your procedure, you should know what you had done, what medication was given and what symptoms you should report to your healthcare provider after discharge. You should also understand all home care instructions (including medications and side effects) and follow-up plans.

  • Your surgeon should also communicate with your primary care physician.
  • Don't forget to make arrangements for transportation to and from the facility and help at home.


Also known as:

Thyroid Biopsy
Biopsy Thyroid
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