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A new way to treat benign thyroid nodules

Surgery has been the traditional method to treat thyroid nodules. Now, doctors in Cleveland are using this new way to treat certain patients.

CLEVELAND — Up to 70% of all adults may have thyroid nodules at some point in their lives. Most are non-cancerous, and many go undiscovered or are found by accident during testing for other conditions. 

Now, doctors are using a non-invasive method to shrink some benign nodules in a procedure that takes less than an hour. 

Michelle Bylaw discovered a problem with her thyroid by accident. 

“I just happened to be touching my neck and noticed a bump there,” she recalled. 

A thyroid nodule, not cancerous, but as months went on, the nodule continued to grow. 

She added, “I was also getting concerned about whether it would eventually affect my swallowing or anything else in that area.” 

For years, surgery has been the traditional treatment for cancerous thyroid nodules, and for benign nodules that keep growing. Now, doctors at the Cleveland Clinic are among the first to use radio frequency ablation to treat non-cancerous nodules. Using ultrasound guidance, doctors put a special needle into the nodule. 

Cleveland Clinic endocrine surgeon, Dr. Eren Berber, MD, explained, “We start the ablation process, which involves delivering a certain amount of energy for the needles, so that the nodule is heated.” 

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The procedure lasts up to an hour. Over a three-to-six-month period, the medical team uses ultrasound to monitor the nodule. 

“Within six months, you can have up to about 50% reduction of the size of the nodule in term of its volume,” Dr. Berber added.  

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For Bylaw, the procedure meant she could avoid invasive surgery. 

She expressed, “It made the recovery a lot faster, and it was a lot less painful than I anticipated.” 

Doctors say right now, the radio frequency ablation procedure is offered to selected patients with benign tumors only and not for patients with thyroid cancer.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Ann Sterling at ann.sterling@wqad.com, David Bohlman at david.bohlman@wqad.com, or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.

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