How Are Thyroid Lesions Diagnosed? (Head and Neck)

Jun 21, 2023
How Are Thyroid Lesions Diagnosed? (Head and Neck)
Your thyroid makes hormones that influence essential bodily functions, and a thyroid lesion could be a sign that something’s wrong. If you recently learned you have a thyroid abnormality, find out more about your diagnosis options here.

Your thyroid is a small, bowtie-shaped gland in the front of your neck. It releases hormones that influence critical bodily functions, like your metabolism, blood pressure, and heart rate. 

Thyroid lesions are abnormalities in your thyroid gland — and whether they were discovered through routine check-ups or due to symptoms, they can be worrisome.

Diagnosing thyroid lesions is essential to determine the most appropriate treatment, and Path MD Labs has the experienced pathologists you need. We offer advanced head and neck pathology, and we work closely with surgeons, endocrinologists, and otolaryngologists to help you get the answers you need.

Physical examination

The first step in diagnosing thyroid lesions is a thorough physical examination. Your doctor carefully assesses your thyroid gland and checks for any visible nodules or lumps in your neck.

While a physical examination alone cannot provide a definitive diagnosis, it’s an essential starting point for further investigation.

Imaging tests

Imaging tests allow your doctor to take a closer look at your thyroid and any lesions that are present. A few of the most common imaging techniques are:


Ultrasound uses sound waves to create detailed images of your thyroid gland. It’s a noninvasive procedure that helps your doctor evaluate the size, location, and characteristics of nodules or abnormalities within your thyroid gland.

Thyroid scans

Thyroid scans use radioactive iodine or technetium to examine the structure and function of your thyroid gland. These scans can provide valuable information about nodules or lesions that may be hyperactive or non-functional, particularly when physical examination or ultrasound findings are inconclusive.

Fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy

FNA biopsy is a minimally invasive technique that uses medical imaging to guide a thin needle into your thyroid gland to extract cells. At Path MD Labs, we can examine these cells under a microscope to identify any abnormalities. This procedure helps differentiate between benign and malignant lesions.

Blood tests

Blood tests can also help diagnose thyroid lesions, because they measure hormone levels and assess thyroid function. Two blood tests your doctor may order are:

Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)

TSH levels indicate how well your thyroid gland is functioning. Abnormal TSH levels may indicate an underlying thyroid condition.

Thyroid hormone levels (T3 and T4)

Measuring T3 and T4 levels helps determine if your thyroid gland is producing an appropriate amount of hormones. Deviations from the normal range may indicate an underlying thyroid issue.

Biopsy and histopathological analysis

In some cases, your doctor may recommend a biopsy to obtain a tissue sample for histopathological analysis. This procedure is typically performed after an FNA biopsy if the results are inconclusive or if cancer is suspected.

Your doctor collects a tissue sample through a minimally invasive procedure called core needle biopsy or through surgical excision. They send the sample to our lab for advanced testing.

We analyze the sample under a microscope to determine the presence of abnormal cells or cancerous growth. Along with histology, we also offer immunohistochemistry testing, special stains, and advanced cytology services for thyroid lesion diagnosis.

Diagnosing thyroid lesions often requires a multidimensional approach, but seeking an accurate diagnosis is the best way to get a treatment plan that fits your needs. If you’re concerned about your thyroid health or you experience symptoms like neck swelling or difficulty swallowing, make an appointment with your doctor.

Remember, early detection and diagnosis greatly increase the chances of successful treatment and a positive outcome. To learn more about our thyroid lesion diagnostic services, call our Los Angeles, California office at 424-245-7284 or send us a message online