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ROCHESTER, Minn., Mar 11, 2004 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- A lump or nodule appearing on the thyroid gland should trigger a trip to the doctor, but it seldom means cancer, U.S. health experts said Thursday.
The thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland at the base of the throat, just below the Adam's apple, has an enormous effect on health, said the experts, from the Mayo Clinic. It regulates metabolism, from how fast the heart beats to how efficiently the body burns calories, to how well a person sleeps and thinks.
Most thyroid nodules cause no symptoms and are discovered by a doctor during a physical examination. Thyroid nodules are common and more often found in women. Doctors do not know what causes the growth. Factors that may increase risk are family history of thyroid nodules, radiation exposure to the head and neck, and certain thyroid conditions.
Anyone who suspects a thyroid nodule, should see a doctor, the Mayo experts said. A benign nodule may only require periodic re-examination. If cancerous, early detection and treatment offer the best chance of survival.
A nodule is more likely to be cancerous if it grows quickly, feels hard, causes hoarseness or trouble swallowing or breathing, or if it is found along with enlarged lymph nodes under the jaw or in the neck.
Copyright 2004 by United Press International.