The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped and wraps around the windpipe just below the Adam’s apple. It produces thyroxine, a hormone essential for the normal function of many organ systems by careful regulation of cell metabolism. Normally, the thyroid gland cannot be seen or felt. Thyroid nodules refer to an abnormal growth that forms a lump on the thyroid gland, and are visible, moves with swallowing, or can be felt.
Dr Ranjiv Sivanandan, general surgeon at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, explains its significance.
Thyroid nodules are the most common presentation of thyroid cancer. While thyroid cancer itself is not common in Singapore, thyroid nodules are exceedingly prevalent. In addition, the incidence of thyroid cancer is increasing at 7% each year, growing faster than any other solid organ cancer. The greatest concern with thyroid nodules is that 1 in 20 is eventually diagnosed as thyroid cancer.
The presence of thyroid nodules
Most thyroid nodules, whether benign or malignant, appear as painless a central neck lump that moves with swallowing. Otherwise, they do not present any symptoms. Symptoms of difficulty in swallowing or breathing are sometimes seen in very large nodules or goitres. Dr Sivanandan recommends prompt assessment for possibility of thyroid cancer if a nodule is associated with voice hoarseness, rapidly growing, or found with other neck lumps.
Assessing thyroid nodules
Treatment for thyroid cancer
Advancing robotic technology, however, has changed that. It is now possible to remove a thyroid nodule without a visible or neck incision. The point of entry can instead be placed in the underarm, through which the thyroid nodule can be safely and completely removed. This procedure is called robotic thyroidectomy. According to Dr Sivanandan, patients who have undergone this procedure are extremely pleased with the result, because there are no visible signs of thyroid surgery at all.
Recovery from thyroid cancer
Publication of article by courtesy of Dr Ranjiv Sivanandan, a general surgeon at Mount Elizabeth Hospital