The thyroid is an organ located in the neck, near the windpipe and voice box. Its anatomy is made up of left and right lobes, which look like wings, as well as an isthmus in between; altogether, the organ is shaped like a butterfly. Being a gland, the thyroid produces and secretes hormones called T3 and T4. They’re also often referred to as “metabolic hormones” because they influence our basal metabolic rates, or how much energy we consume when at rest.
T3 and T4 are also involved in various other functions, such as making proteins, developing and growing tissues in our early lives, as well as the nervous system’s healthy development and continued function in adulthood. It may be surprising to learn that T3 and T4 also have complicated interactions with our reproductive hormones: if they’re imbalanced, they can influence our sex drive, fertility, and other reproductive behaviors. If T3 and T4 are made in excess, they can also cause an increased heart rate, strengthened heartbeat, and a spike in blood pressure.
Sometimes, a condition known as a thyroid nodule may develop in the gland. The condition is defined by an abnormal growth of thyroid cells that develops into a lump within the gland itself; while thyroid nodules are generally benign–in other words, non-cancerous–there’s a small chance they may be malignant, or cancerous.
If your physician detects a thyroid nodule, it’s likely they will recommend a thyroid biopsy to evaluate the nature of the nodule. The procedure, formally called a “fine needle aspiration biopsy,” is a safe one that is typically performed with the assistance of an ultrasound, which helps guide the specialist as they’re attempting to place the biopsy needle into the thyroid nodule to retrieve a sample from it.
During the procedure, your healthcare provider will ask you to lie down, tipping the back of your head backwards in such a way that your neck is extended. There may also be a pillow under your shoulders to help position you for the procedure as well. You’ll be asked to refrain from talking, swallowing, and coughing, while remaining as still as you can. Luckily, it’s likely you won’t feel pain during the procedure, but rather some pressure on your neck from the biopsy needle and ultrasound probe.
The Ezra full-body scan could detect nodules in your thyroid. If you’d like to learn more about our screening options, you may do so here.