Radiofrequency Ablation: A Leading Edge, Non-Surgical Treatment of Thyroid Nodules

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The thyroid gland is small, but it has a big job. While it is primarily responsible for controlling your metabolism, it ultimately affects nearly every part of your body. Like a car battery, we don’t usually think about it, until it stops working properly.Although relatively common, nodules in the thyroid gland can affect how it performs and cause symptoms directly. Even though the vast majority of nodules are benign and not life-threatening, they can still cause problems. Some benign thyroid nodules may cause discomfort, problems with swallowing, produce excess thyroid hormone, or even cause cosmetic concerns.Traditionally, thyroid surgery or radioactive iodine would have been the only treatment options for problematic thyroid nodules, depending on what the problem is. While either is generally safe, there are drawbacks to both.

Thyroid surgery, while a very safe procedure, is still surgery. It requires a trip to the hospital, general anesthesia, and the risks that come with both of those, to say nothing of the pain and recovery time. Additionally, you have the risks specific to thyroid surgery which include bleeding, scarring, hypothyroidism, damage to the vocal cord nerve, and calcium deficiency. Cosmetically, one often ends up trading a lump for a visible scar. Similarly, radioactive iodine therapy has its challenges. To begin with, special precautions must be taken to protect others from exposure to the radiation, especially children. If you have children, you may need to arrange childcare for several days after you have treatment.

Additionally, there are short-term side effects such as nausea, swelling and tenderness in the neck area, dry mouth and a metallic taste that can stay with you for awhile. You may need multiple rounds of treatment, and this may inconvenience you by affecting your plan to become pregnant. Finally, some studies suggest a low but increased risk of other cancers following radiation for thyroid nodules.After treatment with either radioactive iodine or surgery, using thyroid hormone medication to achieve normal blood levels can be a balancing act. If you have hypothyroidism, you may feel sluggish and tired. You’ll need to have regular blood tests as the doctor determines the proper thyroid hormone dosage. If you have too much, you feel nervous and shaky. As a result, it may take some time before you feel your best. Managing thyroid medication is a lifelong process.In the United States, these methods have been the only options for patients dealing with thyroid nodules — until now.

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