I Had a Needle Stuck in My Throat

Okay,
Just a little pinprick
There’ll be no more—aaaaaahhhhh!

needle.jpg

Remember that goiter I told you about? Well, in addition to this swollen thyroid gland that is eating my neck, there is a small nodule, right in the middle, that has been there for at least ten years.

Thyroid nodules are really common. You probably have one! But don’t worry. Ninety-nine percent of thyroid nodules are benign, and if you get a bad one, it might help to know that the most common form of thyroid cancer is very easy to treat.

My nodule is suspicious because it’s firm and fixed rather than mushy and movable; this characteristic—and others too boring to mention here—makes it more likely to be cancerous, but! even among these suspicious nodules, 85% are benign.

So my endocrinologist likes to poke a needle into my nodule every now and then, mainly to torture me but also to make sure the cells are normal—well, as normal as they can be coming from a diseased thyroid with a suspicious nodule.

The best way to tell if a nodule is cancerous is with a fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy, where—you guessed it—a fine needle is inserted into the nodule just below the skin. Cells are sucked up and then analyzed by a pathologist.

It doesn’t feel how you might think it would feel. The sensation is one of a thick, blunt instrument, like maybe a test tube, being pressed into your throat. It’s uncomfortable but not painful. Typically the doctor will insert the needle at least three times to make sure to get a good sample of cells. Lately, my doctor has started using guided ultrasound to get a better picture of exactly where the nodule is.

So, this being a slightly unsettling and possibly upsetting procedure to watch, I decided to film it on my camera. The ultrasound technician thought it might be illegal to do so, but my doctor didn’t care, so, YouTube, here I come.

The Procedure

I’m lying down with a pillow under my shoulders to prop up my neck. My doctor is on one side with a not-so-fine-looking needle; the ultrasound tech is on the other with her gadgetry. It’s not exactly an ideal filming situation, but I figure I’ll just aim and hope for the best. Pretty soon, however, my doctor and technician go all Cecil B. DeMille on me and start hogging the production.

“Take the camera and make sure you’re getting her neck,” my doctor tells the technician, worried that I’m aiming at my face.

The technician sets aside her ultrasound wand and aims my camera. “OK, now move the needle up and down,” she instructs my doctor. “Wait, get your hand out of the way.”

I’m beginning to have regrets. The video is going to turn out great, but what about my biopsy?

The Video

WARNING!

  • Do not watch this if you have a problem with needles.
  • Do not watch this if you have a problem with doctors and medical procedures.
  • Do not watch this if you don’t want to catch a glimpse of my bra (and by “bra” I mean a child’s undershirt, basically).
  • Do watch this if you’re curious about an FNA and want to see me, JD, talking and smiling as the needle harmlessly does its job.

CLICK TO WATCH:

Fine Needle Biopsy


If you think you have a thyroid nodule:
  • Go see an endocrinologist. You’ll probably have a thyroid ultrasound (simple and painless) to provide more information about the nodule, then be told there’s nothing to worry about.
  • Don’t panic. They really are common and not noticeable.
  • Even if you need an FNA, it’s not that bad. It only takes about 5-10 minutes and unless you film it, you don’t ever even see the needle.

Oh, and my results? NORMAL!

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28 Comments


28 Responses to “I Had a Needle Stuck in My Throat”

  1. 1 Kathy

    J.D. — Thank you for the ample warnings. I still can’t believe I clicked on the video anyway. I’m fine with the pain of needles, but I generally don’t want to watch.

    You have my utmost admiration for not only taping it for our viewing pleasure, but also for SMILING through the procedure! You are one amazing woman!

    So glad to hear the results were normal!

  2. 2 JD

    Aw, you’re brave! And I agree: I don’t mind getting stuck, but watching it is kind of uncomfortable.

    It was hard not to smile at the ridiculousness of it all – plus my doctor was cracking me up. I’m usually a little nervous during that procedure, but filming it eased the tension.

    Yay for normal!

  3. 3 rlbates

    Please submit this to SurgeXperiences (http://surgexperiences.wordpress.com/). Thanks.

  4. 4 JD

    rlbates: Done! And thanks!

  5. 5 SarahW

    i had one of those.
    Guess what. The false negative rate is really high.

  6. 6 cardiogirl

    Hey JD, Talk about a walk down memory lane. I, too, had one of those. You have such a good upbeat attitude and I loved the part where you said, “my doctor and technician go all Cecil B. DeMille on me and start hogging the production.”

    I like how you go boldly where others have not all in the name of blogging.

  7. 7 JD

    Hi, Sarah: I’m guessing you experienced a false negative? If so, I’m sorry to hear that, and I hope your prognosis is good.

    I’ve read clashing opinions on the high false negative rate, and what I’ve concluded is that FNA is still considered a reliable procedure in the majority of thyroid nodule patients.

    This is definitely something to discuss with your doctor and research on your own, as well.

  8. 8 JD

    Cardiogirl! Good to hear from you. Yes, I thought I’d caught a few references on your blog to endocrinologists and thyroid issues. Thanks for your nice comments. I don’t know if I’m being bold or ridiculous, but the video was fun to make and took some of the nerves out of the procedure for me.

  9. 9 Jeff

    Yikes! I had to click it off because it was actually making me nauseous. Oh well, so much for my medical career.

    Glad you’re ok but what a bummer that you have to go through that. :-(

  10. 10 JD

    Hi, Jeff! Thanks for stopping by and having a look (sorry it made you sick!). You’re braver than my husband, who refuses to click—I can’t blame him. It made me a little queasy, too.

    The procedure really isn’t too bad, which is what I hoped to communicate by posting the video. Maybe it’s worse to watch it than undergo it???

  11. 11 Karen

    I am having one done today! Dang, I should not of watched this!

  12. 12 JD

    Good luck, Karen! Write back and let us know how it went.

    JD’s last blog post..I Have Google-Induced Brain Damage so you don’t have to

  13. 13 bytheseagirl

    Hey JD,

    I just had one done three hours ago! I have two nodules which means 6 extractions were done. I saw your video on youtube a week ago and linked back to your blog from your profile there.

    During my FNA I told the doctor and the pathologist (who was in the room) about your video… they wanted to know why I was so calm and your video is the reason!! I knew exactly what to expect! (well, pretty much, you only show one or two extractions and I had six, plus two numbing shot.)

    I think the docs are going to go look for it on you tube… or at least, they said they were going to… they were kinda shocked to hear someone put that online. My doc asked me, “was it done in a garage” hehe.

    Anyhow… thanks for putting it online, and being brave enough to ask them to film it! More people should share their experiences with thyroid problems… I’m only 23 and girls my age don’t see thyroid issues as often. Even if these nodules turn out to be nothing… I still have Hashimotos to deal with. blah… thanks again for your vid.

  14. 14 JD

    bytheseagirl: Wow, thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to write about your experience. As you may have already guessed, this is kind of a silly blog, so I’m a bit nervous to have serious medical stuff on here, tho I think everyone knows I’m not exactly an expert. Regardless, I’m so glad your FNA went well and that you felt fairly calm because of my dumb video. No, it wasn’t shot in a garage! HA! I can understand your doctors’ surprise. I was a little surprised my doctor allowed it, but then he’s kind of a weirdo.

    Anyway, I hope your diagnosis is “just” Hashimoto’s. There’s tons of great resources out there, and it’s very easy to live with. Check out my goiter post, if you haven’t already:

    http://idothings.info/i-have-a-goiter-so-you-dont-have-to/

    Best of luck to you. Please come back and tell me how you’re doing.

  15. 15 Jeanie

    Hi JD,

    I was doing a little internet digging, and not sure if you will still be checking this particular post but just in case…

    I am getting ready to have my second biopsy done Friday. The first one was done in the doctor’s office and came back nondiagnostic, so now they are going to do the type you had. Anyway, my question is, after you had yours done did you experience and clicking type feeling in your throat several days later? I still have it and it’s been two weeks after the first biopsy. They are telling me that it’s most likely due to the thyroid cartilage. I’ve checked around and haven’t found what I was looking for yet, so thought I would ask you.
    I just don’t want MORE swelling from Friday’s biopsy to make this worse.. kinda makes you feel like there’s something in your throat.. so it can tend to make me a little panicky.
    Thanks a bunch!

    Jeanie’s last blog post..Father’s Love Letter

  16. 16 JD

    Jeanie: Hi, and welcome! No, I didn’t experience the clicking sensation you describe. I’m sorry I can’t help you out there. So you had a first biopsy, which was an FNA without ultrasound? And now you need a second one, with ultrasound? I can see why that sensation would make you feel panicky. I’m sure it is something like swollen cartilage, but hopefully the second procedure won’t make it any worse.

    Please write back and let me know how it went! Good luck.

  17. 17 lotusflower

    Hi!

    I had FNAB 5 years ago. It was the easiest medical procedure I have undergone in a long, long time. My doctor’s hands were as light as a feather and I didn’t even know it was already over. Back then, they said I had non-toxic thyroid nodules, among other medical conditions. But at that point my kidney was the more important part of my body and had over-all priority for treatment. That was 2003.

    I thank the Lord, my Savior, I am still around. :-)

    God bless and I hope you are better as ever.

    Cheers!

  18. 18 JD

    lotusflower: Hi, yourself! Thanks so much for stopping by to share your story. I’m glad the procedure was painless AND had good results for you. I’m also glad you’re still around! I hope you’re enjoying good health these days!

  19. 19 Texas Medical

    Thanks to the article, Now there is more reason to comment than ever before! Everyone should participate. I am incorporating what your wrote to our project!

    Texas Medical’s last blog post..Judge orders Texas to revamp bilingual education

  20. 20 ThyroidBoy

    I’ve got a few thyroid nodules according to the latest ultrasound scan and doctor is recommending a surgey to deal with it. Really very scared and not looking forward to it.

    Thanks for your article, it’s really very helpful in my case.

  21. 21 JD

    ThyroidBoy: Please keep in mind that this was mainly intended to be a humorous article. I’d suggest you get a second opinion WHENEVER surgery is recommended. Best of luck, and please come back and let us know how you are doing.

  22. 22 Bel

    I will have a throat biopsy tomorrow. I am scared of needles and blood but if you said yours was fine, then I guess mine will be. I just won’t look.

  23. 23 JD

    Bel: Good luck! And it’s very hard to see what’s going on anyway, so you’ll be fine. Let us know how it goes.

  24. 24 Oscar

    JD, you were amazing!!!
    You are the hero!!!!
    Your nodule looks like Adam’s apple, lol:)

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