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A thyroid biopsy is a procedure that removes a small sample of tissue from the thyroid gland, a butterfly-shaped gland at the front of your neck that makes thyroid hormone, to test for cancer. During this procedure, cells are removed through a small, hollow needle for further examination.

In some cases, hard nodules called thyroid nodules form inside the gland. Patients may notice a small bump in the glad area, but there are no symptoms in most cases. Although most nodules are not dangerous, in some cases they can be thyroid cancer.

Who is a candidate?

You might need a thyroid biopsy to test whether or not your thyroid nodule is cancerous. This may occur when:

  • Blood or imaging test results come back abnormal
  • The nodule is larger than one half inch thick
  • The nodule is solid without clear borders that appears to have calcium on it
  • You have extreme pain, and the thyroid is enlarging at a rapid pace

What to expect

What to expect during a thyroid biopsy will depend on which thyroid biopsy technique is best for you. Although most patients receive a fine needle aspiration biopsy, your Jefferson Surgical Clinic physician may recommend a surgical biopsy.

Fine needle aspiration – Performed in an outpatient setting, a fine needle aspiration is a type of thyroid biopsy that is performed while the patient is awake. During the test, a Jefferson Surgical Clinic physician will use imaging guidance to thread a small needle into the neck and remove a sample of thyroid tissue for testing. This procedure usually lasts approximately 30 minutes and does not require anesthesia. Patients are typically able to resume daily activities after leaving the clinic.

Surgical biopsy – During a surgical biopsy, a Jefferson Surgical Clinic surgeon will cut an incision in the neck to remove the nodule. In some cases, part of the entire thyroid may need to be removed.

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