What are calcifications of the thyroid gland?

Howard E. Lewine, MD
Hospitalist
Calcium deposits (calcifications) can occur almost anywhere within the body. They often follow inflammation and infection. They can appear in or around noncancerous growths and some cancers.

Calcifications in the thyroid gland are more often related to noncancerous changes. However, when new calcifications appear in the thyroid, they should be investigated to see whether cancer is present.

The calcifications can sometimes be seen on plain x-rays, like a chest x-ray. Usually the calcium deposits are seen during an ultrasound exam of the thyroid.

There tends to be a different pattern of calcium deposits in noncancerous and cancerous conditions:
  • Many tiny calcium spots within a growth tend to be seen with thyroid cancer.
  • A rim of calcium around a growth tends to mean no cancer is present.
However, the appearance of the calcium deposits is not enough to make a diagnosis.

Depending upon your situation, your doctor may suggest a biopsy. This involves placing a very thin needle into the area of the thyroid that contains the calcifications. Cells are drawn into a syringe and the needle is removed. The cells are then squirted onto a slide to check for cancer.
Harvard Medical School Thyroid Disease: Understanding hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism

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Harvard Medical School Thyroid Disease: Understanding hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism

Would you know it if your thyroid gland slowed production of thyroid hormone? Or if it sped up? The symptoms are hard to spot. An out-of kilter thyroid gland causes a variety of puzzling symptoms and...

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Thyroid

A member of our endocrine system, the thyroid gland produces hormones that help control many of our body functions, such as weight and temperature.Located at the base of our neck, this butterfly-shaped gland makes several hormones...

, which are collectively known as thyroid hormones. These hormones are especially key in the brain development of infants and children. Thyroxine, also known as T4, is the primary hormone secreted by the thyroid gland; this hormone helps control our metabolism, a chemical process that turns our food into energy. A lack of iodine in your food can cause the thyroid to swell, a condition called a goiter. Several other disorders and diseases can affect this gland, including cancer. If you notice swelling in your neck or feel a lump, make sure you see your doctor; this could indicate a problem with this important gland.
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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.