Here at the Thyroid Surgery Center of Excellence, our specialists utilize a variety of imaging tests to diagnose and monitor conditions. The thyroid scan is a specialized test that is frequently used to create an image of the gland in cases where an abnormality is suspected, or to monitor the progression of thyroid cancer.
What is a Thyroid Scan?
A thyroid scan is an imaging test that uses a radioactive tracer to check organ function. The radioactive substance is administered in pill form or injected through a vein. The camera will be able to detect how much of the radioactive tracer is absorbed by the neck gland, thus determining if areas are underactive or overactive. It also gives the doctor an image of the shape and size of the gland.
The doctor may want to perform a radioactive iodine uptake test, in which the patient takes a radioactive iodine pill. Radioactive iodine is used because this gland is the only organ to absorb iodine, using it to make hormones; therefore, the radioactive iodine goes directly to the gland. Several hours after the iodine is administered, the doctor performs the imaging test to measure the amount of radioactivity in the thyroid. The amount of radioactivity, then, directly corresponds with the level of hormone being produced by the gland.
The thyroid scan will need to be read, and interpreted, by a radiologist. The radiologist’s report and the images from the scan will show the shape, size, and location of the gland and allow the doctor to see if there are any suspicious nodules. The radioactive iodine uptake test, if performed, will provide a measure of the neck gland activity. The level of activity will help the doctor determine a diagnosis.
Doctors are also able to determine whether or not neck nodules are taking up iodine or not. Nodules that are taking up more iodine to convert into hormone than surrounding areas are called “hot” nodules. Those thyroid nodules that are nonfunctioning are referred to as “cold” nodules. Most hot thyroids nodules are noncancerous, whereas cancerous nodules are almost always “cold,” or nonfunctioning.
Who Needs this procedure?
The thyroid scan may be indicated for any number of reasons. It may be ordered if hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, thyroid nodules, or cancer is suspected. The scan will determine whether or not the entire gland is functioning properly, or if there are certain areas that are more active than others, which may be an indication of thyroid cancer. The results of a imaging test and radioactive iodine uptake test can help guide treatment. A imaging test may also be used to help determine if cancer has spread.
Frequently Asked Questions
It is common for patients to have questions when undergoing imaging tests and treatment for a condition. The doctors here at our surgical center want to address all of your concerns, so they have put together a list of some of the most frequently asked questions. If you have any further questions, please contact our office.
Q: Is a thyroid scan painful?
A: A imaging test is not painful. It is a non-invasive procedure that allows the doctor to assess the size, shape, and functionality of the neck gland. You will lie down during the scan and stretch your neck back while a special camera takes the images. You may experience slight discomfort in hyperextending your neck.
Q: How do I prepare for a imaging test?
A: Your doctor will give you detailed instructions on how to prepare for your scan. Preparation may include fasting and/or avoiding high-iodine foods before your scan. You may also need to stop taking thyroid hormones prior to the test. Be sure to discuss the pre-scan instructions with your doctor.
Q: How long does a thyroid scan take?
A: The length of time of the procedure will depend on the type of radioactive tracer used. Radioactive iodine has to be administered 4 to 24 hours prior to the scan, whereas other radioactive substances just need to be given about 30 minutes before. The scan itself should take about 30 minutes to perform.
Contact the Thyroid Surgery Center of Excellence
If you have questions about an upcoming imaging test, or would like to schedule a consultation with one of our experts, please contact our office. Our team of specialists is known for the minimally invasive treatment of conditions and would love to help you through yours. Call (888) 817-1439 today to schedule your consultation.
For more information on thyroid scan, contact our office.
Please read this WebMD article on thyroid scans.
Next, read about Ultrasound.