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What is a thyroid scan?

A thyroid scan can refer to a Nuclear Medicine study or an Ultrasound study. In the former, a radioactive isotope is injected which is metabolized in the thyroid. Some areas will metabolize the isotope avidly ("hot spots") compared to a normal background while other areas will metabolize less than normal ("cold spots"). Cold spots can be due to a malignant lesion which can prompt a biopsy. The Nuclear Medicine study is based on thyroid function while the Ultrasound study has a much higher resolution and used to evaluate whether a nodule needs to be sampled.

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