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.
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?
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:
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!