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General Medical Questions
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Question : What exactly are calcifications of the thyroid gland?
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Howard LeWine, M.D., is chief editor of Internet Publishing, Harvard Health Publications. He is a clinical instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital. Dr. LeWine has been a primary care internist and teacher of internal medicine since 1978.

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April 22, 2011
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A:

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.

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