That enlarged nodule on your neck may be a thyroid cyst. Thyroid cysts are usually not malignant and shouldn’t be a source of alarm. How do we distinguish the malignant from the benign? Moreover, how do we go about thyroid cyst treatment?
11 Thyroid Cyst Facts to Take Note Of
1. Thyroid Cysts are a Type of Thyroid Nodules
Thyroid nodules often form due to an overgrowth of the thyroid gland. As with any abnormal growth, thyroid cancer is usually a factor a physician are concerned about. A thyroid cyst is a type of thyroid nodule. These cysts can either be entirely cystic or more complicated. In addition to these, thyroid cysts can occur suddenly and can be of varying sizes.
2. Types of Thyroid Cysts
There are two different types of thyroid cysts. The consistency of these masses is what differentiates them from each other.
- Cystic – If a thyroid cyst is entirely cystic, this means its contents are purely fluid. You shouldn’t worry about masses like this because they are always benign.
- Complex – On the other hand, complex cysts contain both solid and fluid components.
3. Thyroid Cysts are Often Benign
As mentioned several times before, a thyroid cyst is usually benign. However, this can expand in size and cause some discomfort. It is best to consider thyroid cyst removal surgery if a thyroid cyst begins to disrupt your everyday activities.
4. Trends Found in Individuals Who Have Thyroid Cysts
The direct cause of the occurrence of thyroid cysts is not yet known. However, we do know that individuals who have thyroid cysts have a few things in common.
- Family history – People with these cysts usually have a family history of thyroid issues.
- Iodine deficiency – Iodine deficient diets are commonly what afflicted individuals seem to have.
- Age – Nodules and cysts are more likely to develop with age.
- Gender – Women are more likely to develop thyroid nodules and cysts as compared to men.
5. Eat More Iodine to Avoid Cysts
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As mentioned, iodine deficiency has been identified to be related to the occurrence of thyroid nodules and cysts. To avoid the formation of thyroid cysts, make sure you meet the recommended daily allowance for iodine every day.
Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA)
The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for iodine is around 150 mcg for adults. Children ages 1-8 years old need approximately 90 mcg per day. Pubescent children who are at ages 9-13 need 120 mcg.
On the other hand, pregnant and breastfeeding women need a lot more iodine than the average adult. Dietitians recommend pregnant and lactating women to consume at least 290/mcg of iodine per day. The increased amount of dietary iodine is necessary for their child’s brain development.
Consider adding the following to your diet to increase your iodine consumption.
- Sea vegetables – The Japanese cuisine includes a variety of these vegetables. Examples of which are seaweed, kelp, arame, hiziki, and kombu. A tablespoon of kelp contains approximately 2000/mcg of iodine.
- Cranberries – This fruit isn’t just great for waking up your bowels, it is also a good source of iodine.
- Yogurt – 1 cup of this natural probiotic contains 90/mcg of iodine.
- Strawberries – You can get 13/ mcg of iodine from a serving of strawberries.
- Cheese – Cheese isn’t just great for burgers, it can also provide up to 10% of your iodine RDA.
- Potatoes – Potatoes are incredibly rich in iodine. A medium sized potato can contain up to 60/ mcg.
6. Thyroid Cyst Symptoms
Routine physical examinations often serve as the means of discovering thyroid cysts. This is because the symptoms of thyroid cysts are very minimal. However, this enlarging lump may cause minor discomforts such as the following:
- Difficulty swallowing – An expanding mass in your neck area can restrict your esophagus.
- Neck pain – An enlarged thyroid cyst may potentially put pressure on some nerves and muscles located in the neck.
- Change in voice quality – It is also possible to compress the vocal cords which may be audibly apparent.
7. Thyroid Cyst Diagnosis
There are several ways to diagnose a thyroid cyst. A battery of tests can be done:
- Fine Needle Biopsy – A thyroid fine needle biopsy is a relatively simple procedure that does not require the patient to be put to sleep. This diagnostic test is necessary for identifying whether a thyroid nodule is cancerous or a benign thyroid cyst. The amount of information it provides makes it an essential tool in thyroid nodule diagnosis. In all consideration, the reduction in the number of patients who undergo unnecessary operations on benign nodules is seen to be a direct result of the use of this diagnostic method.
- Thyroid Scan – A thyroid scan involves capturing a picture of the thyroid gland with the help of a dose of a radioactive isotope. The purpose of a thyroid scan is to detect excessively active nodules. Active nodules are rarely cancerous. Given this, the detection of these would rule out the need for a biopsy. However, due to the ingestion of radioactive isotope required by this test, pregnant women can not undergo this procedure.
- Ultrasound – A thyroid ultrasound can visualize nodules that are as small as 2 mm. The identification of cystic and solid components can be done through this visualization. Moreover, it also serves as a guide for fine needle biopsy procedures. Ultrasounds can help physicians ensure that they are getting a sample of the substantial component of thyroid nodules, if any. Cysts that are entirely fluid filled are much less likely to develop into cancer.
8. The 4 Categories of Possible Fine Needle Biopsy Results
You are to receive your biopsy results after evaluation by a pathologist. Here is a brief breakdown of the possible results and how they are to be interpreted.
- Benign – Benign nodules require monitoring to ensure that it does not develop into a malignant mass.
- Malignant – On the other hand, malignant results often call for a thyroidectomy.
- Nondiagnostic – 10 percent of the time, a diagnosis is unable to be provided due to the lack of specimen collected.
- Indeterminate – Results that point towards indeterminate means that there is still a high possibility of malignancy. Due to this, thyroid removal surgery is also presented as an option.
9. Cancer Risk Factors
It is likely that your doctor will be concerned with cancer risk factors following the discovery of an abnormal lump. Although thyroid cysts are not malignant, it is still important to know your potential for developing cancerous nodules. This is especially necessary if the following factors concern you:
- Family history of nodules
- Has a nodule that is hard or stuck to another structure
- Younger than 20 years old
- Older than 70 years old
- Increased exposure to radiation
10. Treatment Options for Thyroid Cysts
If the mass is identified as a thyroid cyst, there are several options for treatment. The decision on which treatment approach to use is often dependent on the location of the cyst as well as whether or not it grows.
- Watchful Waiting – It is likely that your doctor would not recommend invasive treatment for benign thyroid cysts. However, you will still need to be mindful of the status of the mass. The cyst may not be malignant at the moment, but this can still change in the future. If you begin to feel any discomfort or if the cyst begins to increase in size, consult your doctor.
- Surgery – A thyroid cyst surgery will likely be done if the cyst continues to grow or if it shows the potential to develop into a malignant tumor. This is also done if the cyst restricts breathing or swallowing. Also, a doctor may opt to remove the cyst if it is suspicious in that it can not be properly diagnosed without it being taken out.
11. Cold Spots Can Either Be Cancerous Or Benign Cysts
There is another way to differentiate a thyroid nodule. A problematic gland can either have a hot or a cold spot. This refers primarily to how it affects the functioning of the thyroid gland.
- Hot Spot – It refers to the overproduction of thyroid hormone.
- Cold Spot – On the other hand, this refers to the reduced function of the nodule or gland.
Of the two, cold spots are more likely to be cancerous in comparison to hot spots. This is because of how cancer cells are inherently immature and thus are incapable of accumulating enough iodine. However, cold spots are still more likely to identify as benign cysts. Because of this, doctors often opt to request for an ultrasound to evaluate the need for an FNA.
Watch this video by Strawberry by the Radio to hear more about what it’s like to have a thyroid cyst:
Thyroid cysts are often benign. However, it is still important to know that we should not take these irregularities seriously. It is still very much possible that these masses can develop into something that can cause us harm. After all, it is better to be safe than sorry! If you find any lumps on your neck, make sure to bring this to the attention of your doctor.
If you have any experience with thyroid cysts, please share your experience with us in the comment section below!