Thyroid biopsy, also known as fine-needle aspiration biopsy (FNAB), is a diagnostic procedure used to examine thyroid nodules or masses for signs of cancer or other abnormalities. The procedure involves using a thin needle to extract cells from the thyroid gland, which are then examined under a microscope. In this article, we’ll dive into the details of thyroid biopsy, including how it’s done, what the results mean, and answers to some common FAQs.
How is a Thyroid Biopsy Done?
A thyroid biopsy is typically an outpatient procedure that is performed by a trained healthcare professional. The patient will lie down on an exam table, and their neck will be slightly extended to provide better access to the thyroid gland. The healthcare professional will then use ultrasound guidance to locate the nodule or mass and insert a thin needle through the skin into the nodule. They will then extract a sample of cells by aspirating (sucking) them through the needle. The needle is removed, and pressure is applied to the biopsy site to prevent bleeding.
The entire procedure usually takes about 20-30 minutes, and the patient can typically return to their normal activities immediately afterward. Some patients may experience mild pain or discomfort at the biopsy site, which can be managed with over-the-counter pain relievers.
What do Thyroid Biopsy Results Mean?
The results of a thyroid biopsy will indicate whether the cells extracted from the nodule are cancerous, benign (not cancerous), or indeterminate (unclear whether cancerous or not). The results are usually reported using the Bethesda System for Reporting Thyroid Cytopathology, which is a standardized system used to classify thyroid biopsy results.
The Bethesda System categorizes thyroid biopsy results into six categories, ranging from benign to malignant. The categories are as follows:
- Non-diagnostic or unsatisfactory: The biopsy did not provide enough cells to make a diagnosis.
- Benign: The cells are normal and not cancerous.
- Atypia of undetermined significance or follicular lesion of undetermined significance: The cells show some abnormal features, but it’s unclear whether they are cancerous or not.
- Follicular neoplasm or suspicious for a follicular neoplasm: The cells appear abnormal and may be cancerous, but it’s unclear without further testing.
- Suspicious for malignancy: The cells are highly abnormal and likely cancerous.
- Malignant: The cells are cancerous.
If the biopsy results are benign, the patient will typically not require any further treatment or follow-up. If the results are malignant, the patient will typically be referred to a specialist for further testing and treatment. If the results are indeterminate, the healthcare professional may recommend further testing or monitoring to determine whether the nodule is cancerous or not.