Aspiration Thyroid CanerThere are many tests that doctors can perform to diagnose and analyze a thyroid condition. Fine needle aspiration, or biopsy, is often indicated to determine whether or not a thyroid or neck gland growth is cancerous. A fine needle aspiration biopsy is the procedure used to remove a sample of cells from the neck gland to send to pathology in order to determine whether or not cancer is present.

Fine Needle Biopsy Procedure

A fine needle biopsy of the neck gland is typically performed in the doctor’s office and is typically a 20-30 minute procedure with little pain or discomfort involved.

Before a fine needle biopsy, your doctor may apply a numbing medication to the lower neck. As the needle used for biopsy is so thin, a numbing agent is not always necessary. You will need to lie back with your neck slightly hyperextended in order to allow access to the gland. The doctor will then insert a very fine needle into the neck gland/growth and remove a sample of the cells and fluid. A bandage and some pressure will be applied to the biopsy site to stop any bleeding. The gland cells and fluid that are removed will then be tested for abnormalities indicating cancer.

In certain cases, the doctor may choose to use an ultrasound to help guide him/her during the fine needle biopsy. In cases where the lump is not easily felt or the nodule is small, the use of an ultrasound at the time of biopsy helps ensure the sample cells are taken from the exact location where there is suspicion of cancer. The ultrasound is painless and non-invasive.


Finding out that you have a nodule or growth and need a biopsy can be a frightening time. The experts at our surgical center e want to help put your mind at ease and answer any and all of your questions. To help, they have answered some commonly asked questions about the fine needle biopsy procedure for you here. Contact the Los Angeles Thyroid Surgery Center of Excellence if you have any more questions or concerns.

Q: Is fine needle aspiration painful?

A: This procedure of the neck gland is often described by patients as slightly uncomfortable, but not particularly painful. The discomfort typically comes from the hyperextension of the neck during the procedure. Fortunately, the process usually does not take long and the thin nature of the needle used keeps it from causing more pain than a typical blood draw. Discuss your concerns with your physician prior to the procedure and they can apply a topical numbing agent.

Q: What would indicate the need for a fine needle biopsy?

A: A fine needle aspiration biopsy is performed when cancer is suspected, nodules are discovered, or other tests indicate the possibility of an abnormality. The tissue and cells collected during the biopsy are sent to pathology for testing where it will be determined whether or not the sample is benign or malignant. Fine needle biopsy results will help guide further treatment, if needed.

Q: What are the risks of fine needle aspiration?

A: The risks associated with this procedure are minimal. There may be a little swelling or discomfort just after the procedure that can be relieved with over the counter pain medication and/or the application of an ice pack. Further complications are rare, but please be sure to discuss any concerns you may have with your physician prior to the procedure.

Q: Are there other ways to tell if a nodule or growth is cancerous?

A: This procedure is the only non-surgical way to determine if a growth is or is not cancerous. Imaging tests cannot determine the presence of cancer and surgically removing the growth to determine whether it is cancerous could result in an unnecessary surgery. The results of the biopsy also give the doctor information as to what type of cancer is present which helps in proceeding with a proper treatment plan.

Q: I just found out I have thyroid cancer. What do I do now?

A: A positive diagnosis of thyroid cancer will always require surgery. The cancerous gland (or part of it) needs to be removed. Surgery, known as thyroidectomy, may be followed by Radioactive Iodine treatments. The specialists at our surgical center are highly regarded for their minimally invasive thyroidectomy techniques. Using state-of-the-art surgical equipment, cutting-edge techniques, and the smallest incision possible, our board-certified head & neck surgeons have a high rate of success in performing minimally invasive thyroidectomy. The technique is just as effective as the traditional thyroidectomy, but leaves a minimal scar and involves a shorter recovery period. For more information on minimally invasive neck gland removal, contact our Los Angeles surgeons today.

Contact our Center Today for a Consultation

If you have thyroid nodules, a growth, or an enlarged thyroid, contact the experts at our surgical center today to schedule a consultation. Our board-certified head & neck surgeons are renowned for their minimally invasive surgical techniques for the removal of thyroid nodules, cancer, and goiter. When dealing with a condition, you can trust the experts here to provide the highest level of patient care with effective, innovative surgical techniques. Call us today at (888) 817-1439 to schedule your consultation.

For more information on fine needle aspiration biopsy, contact our office in Los Angeles today.

Please read this WebMD article on fine needle aspiration.

Next, read about thyroid ultrasound.