In our last blog, we discussed thyroid nodules, what they are, and how they are diagnosed. In that blog, we mentioned a process called FNA, or fine needle aspiration. This procedure is a common part of diagnosing a thyroid nodule and is carried out routinely by endocrinologists and thyroid surgeons. But what is this process and why is it an important part of diagnosing your thyroid nodule?

What Does The Procedure Look Like?

A FNA is generally carried out right in the doctor’s office and is simple and safe. Using an ultrasound, the endocrinologist uses a very small needle to scrape a sample of cells off of the thyroid nodule. The ultrasound allows the doctor to accurately maneuver the needle and ensure that only the nodule is aspirated. The doctor will ask you to lay on your back with your head tilted backwards. Typically this procedure is very quick, and the patient often only fields mild discomfort. In many cases, a topical anesthetic can be applied to the throat to reduce any pain or sensation. The doctor will ask you to stay still, and avoid talking, swallowing, coughing while they are collecting the sample.

Why Do I Need A FNA?

While the majority of thyroid nodules are benign, or non-cancerous, it is always important to check them for any malignant components. Approximately 10 percent of thyroid nodules are cancerous, and may need further surgery or treatment to address. A FNA is one of the most accurate ways to assess if your thyroid nodule is cancerous. When carried out properly, the FNA test has a false negative rate of less than five percent. To reduce the likelihood of a faulty test, the nodule is aspirated several times to collect multiple cell samples. Additionally, a FNA is the only non-surgical method that doctor’s have to determine whether a thyroid nodule is benign or malignant. This makes it a simple and safe procedure, and one that is significantly less expensive than other options.

Examining The Sample Cells

Once a sample is collected, a pathologist looks at the cells. From there, the pathologist classifies them as either non-diagnostic, benign, suspicious, or malignant. A non-diagnostic result means that there weren’t enough thyroid cells collected to get an accurate reading. The doctor will have to collect another sample of cells and test them again. A benign classification means that the nodule is made of cells and tissues that are not cancerous. The majority of nodules are classified as benign. A nodule is classified as suspicious if the thyroid cells in the sample are not clearly either benign or malignant. In most cases, the next course of action is surgery, as 25 percent of all suspicious nodules are found to be malignant after they have been surgically removed. inally, malignant classifications are applied to thyroid nodules that contain a large number of cancerous cells. Thyroid surgery is the next step for patients who have been diagnosed with malignant nodules.

These results are returned to your endocrinologists in anywhere from two days to a few weeks, allowing you to quickly react to your results and plan treatment if need be.

If you have been diagnosed with thyroid nodules and are in need of a fine needle aspiration, contact the endocrinologists at Texas Thyroid & Parathyroid Center. Doctor Teresa Kroeker is a leading member of the Austin medical community. Performing hundreds of thyroid surgeries every year, she conducts FNAs in an efficient and effective manner, ensuring that her patients have accurate information about the health of their thyroid.

Contact our Austin-based clinic today to arrange for your appointment.