HEALTH ALERT!  For the safety of our patients and staff, effective March 30, 2020, new patients and patients with disabilities will be permitted one visitor over the age of 15. No other visitors will be permitted into the clinic.  Family members and caretakers may participate in the appointments remotely by phone or video conference if desired. Compass is working with other health care providers in the area to help contain the spread of the novel Coronavirus. We are taking active steps to minimize your exposure to the virus. These steps include screening everyone who enters the clinic for signs of illness, banning most visitors in the clinic, minimizing our own staffing and allowing some employees to work from home, and frequent sanitation of the clinic. We are using personal protective equipment such as masks, gowns, gloves, and face-shields according to national guidelines. We are working to identify those patients whose visits or treatments can be safely delayed, and we will notify you of this if you have an upcoming visit.  We ask that you stay home if you have fever and/or cough.

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Thyroid Cancer Diagnosis

If you have symptoms that suggest thyroid cancer, your doctor will help you find out whether they are from cancer or some other cause. Your doctor will ask you about your personal and family medical history. You may have one or more of the following tests:

  • Physical exam: Your doctor feels your thyroid for lumps (nodules). Your doctor also checks your neck and nearby lymph nodes for growths or swelling.
  • Blood tests: Your doctor may check for abnormal levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) in the blood. Too much or too little TSH means the thyroid is not working well. If your doctor thinks you may have medullary thyroid cancer, you may be checked for a high level of calcitonin and have other blood tests.
  • Ultrasound: An ultrasound device uses sound waves that people cannot hear. The device aims sound waves at the thyroid, and a computer creates a picture of the waves that bounce off the thyroid. The picture can show thyroid nodules that are too small to be felt. The doctor uses the picture to learn the size and shape of each nodule and whether the nodules are solid or filled with fluid. Nodules that are filled with fluid are usually not cancer. Nodules that are solid may be cancer.
  • Thyroid scan: Your doctor may order a scan of your thyroid. You swallow a small amount of a radioactive substance, and it travels through the bloodstream. Thyroid cells that absorb the radioactive substance can be seen on a scan. Nodules that take up more of the substance than the thyroid tissue around them are called “hot” nodules. Hot nodules are usually not cancer. Nodules that take up less substance than the thyroid tissue around them are called “cold” nodules. Cold nodules may be cancer.
  • Biopsy: A biopsy is the only sure way to diagnose thyroid cancer. A pathologist checks a sample of tissue for cancer cells with a microscope.

Your doctor may take tissue for a biopsy in one of two ways:

  • Fine-needle aspiration: Most people have this type of biopsy. Your doctor removes a sample of tissue from a thyroid nodule with a thin needle. An ultrasound device can help your doctor see where to place the needle.
  • Surgical biopsy: If a diagnosis cannot be made from fine-needle aspiration, a surgeon removes the whole nodule during an operation. If the doctor suspects follicular thyroid cancer, surgical biopsy may be needed for diagnosis.