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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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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.