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Thyroid Disease Treatment Options at UPMC

Having thyroid disease can affect every part of your life. Thyroid problems are common, especially in women.

At UPMC, we offer the latest tests and treatments for all thyroid conditions.

Doctors from many specialties work together to give you the best possible outcomes.

What Is a Thyroid Gland?

Your thyroid gland is an organ in your neck that's shaped like a butterfly. It makes hormones that control your metabolism, or how your body burns energy.

Having an underactive or overactive thyroid can affect your:

  • Breathing.
  • Digestion.
  • Heart rate.
  • Mood.

Your thyroid can also form nodules that can turn into cancer.

Thyroid cancer isn't as common as other thyroid problems. But it can be serious, especially if it spreads beyond the thyroid gland.

What Is a Thyroid Nodule?

A thyroid nodule is an abnormal lump of cells that grows in the thyroid gland. It can be soft or filled with fluid.

Thyroid nodules are common. By age 60, half of all people have them, according to the American Thyroid Association.

Most thyroid nodules are harmless, but a small percent contain cancer cells.

How Do You Diagnose Thyroid Disorders?

Our doctors use the latest technology to diagnose and treat thyroid disease.

To diagnose thyroid problems, your doctor may use one or more of these tests:

  • Biopsy.
  • Blood tests.
  • Thyroid scan using an iodine tracer.
  • Ultrasound.

Your treatment will depend on what type of thyroid problem you have.

Treatment for Hypothyroidism (Underactive Thyroid)

To speed up your metabolism, your doctor may prescribe medicine that contains thyroid hormone.

Doctors increase the dose until your blood reaches a normal level of thyroid hormone.

You'll likely have to take this medicine for the rest of your life.

Treatment for Hyperthyroidism (Overactive Thyroid)

Your doctor may prescribe:

  • Medicine that blocks the effects of thyroid hormone on the body.
  • Medicine that blocks the thyroid from making new hormones.
  • Radioiodine treatments to destroy the cells that make thyroid hormone.
  • Surgery to remove some or all of the thyroid. You may have to take hormone medicine to restore normal levels of thyroid hormone in your blood.

Treatment for Benign Thyroid Nodules

In most cases, benign thyroid nodules don’t need treatment. However, some large nodules may cause compressive symptoms like difficulty swallowing, or cosmetic concerns, or they may cause hyperthyroidism by producing excess thyroid hormone. Your doctor may recommend:

  • Thyroid radiofrequency ablation – a treatment that destroys the thyroid nodule through heat energy.
  • Surgery to remove part of your thyroid.

Thyroid Cancer Treatments

Your doctor may advise surgery to remove all or part of your thyroid. They may remove lymph nodes if the cancer has spread.

After surgery, your doctor may prescribe radioiodine therapy and/or thyroid hormone replacement therapy.

Advanced Surgical Options for Thyroid Cancer

UPMC uses a team approach to thyroid care.

Your team may include:

  • Endocrinologists.
  • Nuclear medicine doctors.
  • Pathologists.
  • Primary care doctors.
  • Surgeons.

Our doctors use advanced surgical techniques, including:

  • Lymph node dissection. Doctors take a sample of lymph node tissue to check for cancer.
  • Minimally invasive thyroid surgery. Robotic-assisted surgery is precise and gives doctors a magnified, high-definition view. Recovery is faster than with traditional surgery.
  • Radioactive iodine ablation. This destroys thyroid tissue that doctors couldn't remove in surgery. Doctors may also use it if cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
  • Ultrasound lymph node mapping. This gives detailed head and neck imaging before and during surgery.

Why Choose UPMC for Thyroid Treatments?

UPMC offers a unique team approach to treating thyroid disease. We align your care with some of the nation's leading experts on thyroid disease. You also have easy access to prompt testing and treatment.

In addition, we:

  • Design unique treatment plans using the latest techniques and advanced surgical methods.
  • Offer access to high-tech molecular testing of thyroid nodules and tissues.
  • Offer same-day diagnostic and screening services for thyroid issues.
  • Provide access to cutting-edge cancer therapies and clinical trials.

Thyroid Disease Support Groups

It can be useful to connect with others who have thyroid issues.

We can help you find support groups, including:

Make a Thyroid Appointment at UPMC

Contact us to make an appointment or learn more about our full range of expert care.

Find an endocrinology location near you.