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A follicular adenoma is a mass arising in the epithelial cells of the thyroid gland. The tumor is typically painless, asymptomatic, and benign, but some can become malignant, and a doctor may recommend removing the growth for safety. It can also be hard to distinguish between a true adenoma and other growths like carcinomas, and a doctor may err on the side of caution to keep a patient as healthy as possible. This type of tumor tends to be more common in women over 50.
Often, a follicular adenoma is an incidental finding. A doctor may be able to palpate the mass on a physical examination, or will spot it during a thyroid scan or medical imaging study of the neck. The doctor can request additional scans and a biopsy of the tissue to find out more. A pathologist can look at a biopsy sample and attempt to determine whether it is a follicular adenoma or another kind of growth.
Treatment for a follicular adenoma may simply involve watching and waiting if it is clearly identifiable as a benign growth. In other cases, a doctor will recommend surgery to excise the growth. The surgeon will take out the growth and the surrounding capsule with the goal of preventing the spread of any malignancy. The rest of the thyroid gland will be left in place. Patients should not need artificial thyroid hormones, as their glands will be able to meet their needs even with a section missing.
A diagnosis of follicular adenoma can take time, as practitioners need to rule out any possibility of malignancy before making firm diagnostic decisions. A mistake with a cancerous growth in the thyroid could be fatal for the patient, as the growth might metastasize. Patients may find it helpful to see specialists like endocrinologists for evaluation, as these doctors have extensive experience with abnormal growths in the thyroid and may be able to offer more treatment options.
Patients meeting with a doctor to discuss follicular adenoma treatment may receive information about several options. It is a good idea to ask about the risks and benefits of different treatments, as well as the risks of declining treatment. The doctor can provide details about the different options and help the patient make an informed choice suitable for her needs. Older and very ill patients may want to consider whether the treatment would cut into their quality of life, as the growth might not be a problem in a patient who is likely to die of a different condition.