The thyroid gland, located in the neck, is responsible for controlling the rate at which the body uses energy and makes proteins. Occasionally nodules may form on the thyroid and these cysts may cause pain, bleeding and even a change in voice if they go untreated. Treatment will vary when it comes to thyroid cysts depending on whether they are found to be cancerous when fluid is extracted in a biopsy.
Hormone Suppression Therapy
Levothyroxine, a replacement hormone that replicates the one secreted by the thyroid gland, may be given in pill form to treat benign cysts. According to the Mayo Clinic, the additional thyroid hormone will cause a decrease in TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone), which allows the thyroid tissue to grow. This will cause the growth on the thyroid to shrink in some cases. Although the therapy may be used in some cases, benign thyroid growths may not cause any problems and may not require shrinking at all unless other complications are present.
Given in capsule or pill form, radioactive iodine is a treatment that may shrink thyroid nodules, including adenomas or goiters. This treatment will usually make the symptoms of an overactive thyroid go away or improve within 2-3 months.
When the nodules are destroyed, thyroid hormone is released into the body. This event may cause worse symptoms temporarily following treatment. Side effects may include sore throat and neck.
In worst cases, the biopsy reveals the cysts to contain cancerous cells. The typical treatment for a malignant thyroid growth is to have it surgically removed along with the majority of the thyroid tissue. This “near-total thyroidectomy” will obviously reduce the levels of thyroid hormone in the body to insufficient levels and lifelong replacement therapy with levothyroxine will be necessary for normal function. This cancer treatment usually cures the cancer and rarely causes life-threatening problems, according to the American Thyroid Association.
If benign cysts are unable to be effectively treated in non-surgical ways and it grows enough to cause difficulty breathing or swallowing, then surgery may also be used to remove it. Surgery will only be considered for benign growths because of risks that include possible damage to vocal nerves or damage to the parathyroid glands that control the calcium level in the bloodstream.
Wait and See
In the case of a benign thyroid growth of any kind, doctors may suggest waiting it out, according to the Mayo Clinic. Observation of the cyst may be the only precaution ever needed if it does not increase in size. Another biopsy and regular physical exams may be required if changes occur in the growth.