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Everything I need to Know about My Upcoming Thyroid Biopsy

Thyroid Biopsy

What Is a Thyroid Biopsy?

A thyroid biopsy is a frequently performed procedure that's done to investigate a mass or nodule found in the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped gland found in the front of the neck. The biopsy will determine whether the growth is benign or malignant. In order to do so, your doctor must take a sample of cells from the mass.

Why Would You Need a Thyroid Biopsy?

The development of nodules in the thyroid gland is common. Certain conditions can cause your thyroid to swell. These growths can cause different problems. It’s important for you and your doctor to determine if a thyroid nodule is cancer, although a small percentage of these growths turn out to be cancerous. It’s important to see if a mass is cancerous as soon as possible, so that you can quickly begin treatment.

What Is Your Doctor Looking For?

Your doctor is investigating the mass to determine if the growth is caused by an enlarged thyroid gland, also called a goiter, or if it's something related to other thyroid conditions, such as Hashimoto’s disease. Your doctor is also looking to rule out if the growth is cancerous.

What Happens During the Thyroid Biopsy Procedure?

You’ll be placed in a comfortable position lying on your back. A local anesthetic or sedative may be administered to make sure you’re relaxed and comfortable.

Typically, a thyroid biopsy is done using fine needle aspiration (FNA) or core needle biopsy (CNB). Using ultrasound imaging to pinpoint the exact area for the biopsy, your doctor places the needle into your neck to draw out (aspirate) a sample for testing. You may feel the needle move around a bit. Your physician may repeat it several times to sample different parts of the nodule or goiter. 

An FNA procedure uses a very thin needle to withdraw a small amount of tissue from the thyroid. This tissue is then sent for further testing.

A CNB is much like an FNA, but the needle is slightly bigger and hollow. During a CNB, small cylinders (cores) are used to extract tissue samples from the thyroid. A CNB may take a bit longer than an FNA, but it gives your physician more information because the sample is larger.

How to Prepare for a Thyroid Biopsy

  • Ask your healthcare provider if you should stop taking any medications before the procedure, such as blood thinners.
  • Understand exactly what procedure is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Follow your doctor’s instructions about when to stop eating and drinking. You may be able to eat and drink normally before the procedure.
  • You should be able to go home on the same day of the procedure.

What to Expect After the Procedure

Your doctor will contact you with the biopsy results within a few days, although results could take up to 2 weeks. What’s next depends on what the biopsy discovered. If it’s not cancer and you don’t have other symptoms, you and your doctor may watch to see if any other symptoms develop.

If the biopsy shows that the growth is from an underactive or overactive thyroid, treatment will be administered to counteract the condition. Large nodules can interfere with breathing or swallowing, so follow the plan your doctor recommends. If cancer is found, surgery may be needed. Most thyroid cancers are treatable.

To book a thyroid biopsy, contact our board-certified radiologists at Neighborhood Radiology Services, with locations throughout the New York Metropolitan Area. Fill out the request appointment form on this page or contact one of our offices directly.

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