Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA)
A thyroid fine needle aspiration (FNA) is the most common method for evaluating a thyroid nodule or mass. It is a simple procedure done by an endocrinologist to check for cancer cells.
A very fine, thin needle is inserted into the thyroid to aspirate (remove) cells and fluid from the thyroid nodule or mass. The cells are evaluated by the cytology lab. This is also called a biopsy.
A majority of thyroid tumors are benign or non-cancerous. The thyroid FNA should provide enough information so that other tests are not needed. Your doctor can then use these results to decide what your next steps should be.
What should I expect during a thyroid FNA?
The doctor will use ultrasound (a machine that sends sound waves through the skin and creates images on a TV screen) to check the site of the nodule or mass. Once the nodule is located, a small needle will be inserted into the nodule with ultrasound guidance. Most often 3 samples are needed. The samples will be sent to a cytopathologist to see if enough cells were aspirated. If not, further samples will be obtained.
The doctor will get preliminary report shortly after the procedure. If cancer is suspected, you will be able to see an endocrine surgeon who specializes in thyroid surgery that same day.
The final report from the cytopathologist will be available in 3-4 days.
What can I do after the procedure?
Thyroid FNA is considered safe, and almost never results in complications. You can resume your normal routine, as you are able, after the thyroid FNA.