5 Essential facts about thyroid cysts

Discover the 5 crucial aspects of thyroid cysts—being aware of their potential malignancy and the importance of being informed.

5 Things You Must Know About Thyroid Cysts

Thyroid cysts are fluid-filled swellings on the thyroid gland that typically don’t disrupt its normal function. They’re usually small and often don’t show any symptoms. However, in rare instances, cysts may be cancerous, underscoring the importance of understanding all facets of thyroid cysts and the potential risk of thyroid cancer. Explore these five essential facts about thyroid cysts.

Thyroid cysts fall within the category of thyroid nodules

Thyroid cysts, found on the thyroid gland, represent a particular form of thyroid nodules. These cysts can manifest as either singular entities or as multiple colloid cysts. Colloid cysts consist of numerous smaller thyroid cysts, which can exhibit either malignant or non-malignant characteristics. Surgical intervention may be necessary if the colloid disrupts the thyroid’s normal function. Typically containing liquid, thyroid cysts may also contain solid components. Complex cysts, containing both solid and fluid components, are often subject to examination for potential malignancy.

Thyroid cysts rarely develop into cancerous growths

While the prospect of thyroid cysts can be unsettling, it’s important to recognize that the likelihood of them progressing into cancer is generally low. Your doctor will conduct a biopsy to differentiate between malignant and benign cysts, with some resolving on their own or through thyroid medication. Should your doctor observe enlarged or solid cysts in your thyroid, further diagnostic tests for thyroid cancer may be recommended. However, only about five percent of thyroid cysts are cancerous. If a thyroid cancer diagnosis is confirmed, your doctor will tailor a treatment plan based on factors such as your age, overall health, cancer stage, and tumor size.

Only a few symptoms may indicate malignancy in thyroid cysts

Thyroid cysts typically present no symptoms and often go undetected until a medical examination of the throat is performed. However, in cases where the cyst is sizable, a noticeable lump may become apparent in the throat. Symptoms suggestive of potential malignancy in thyroid cysts include:

  • Rapid enlargement of the cyst
  • Firm or hard consistency of the cyst
  • Hoarseness in voice
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Palpable enlargement of a lymph node beneath the jaw

Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA)

The ultrasound-guided method is frequently employed to ascertain the characteristics of the cyst. If a solid mass is found within the thyroid cyst, the physician will extract cells from the lump. In cases where the cyst contains fluid, surgical removal is necessary. The extracted sample will undergo microscopic examination to determine whether it is cancerous or noncancerous.

How does a physician typically approach the treatment of a thyroid cyst

If the cyst is non-cancerous, surgery might not be the first choice for your doctor. Instead, they may opt to drain the cyst using ultrasound guidance and then inject either tetracycline or ethanol into it. This procedure significantly reduces the likelihood of recurrence. However, if the cyst keeps coming back, surgery might be recommended.

If the cyst is cancerous, your doctor may refer you to an oncologist for appropriate treatment of thyroid cancer.