Medically reviewed on August 17, 2022 by Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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For years, you avoided everything from the common cold to scrapes and bruises. Then, one morning, you see a lump at the base of your neck. Alarmed, you visit the doctor and learn you have a thyroid nodule.
Fortunately, most thyroid nodules aren’t a cause for concern. However, some thyroid nodules may show compressive symptoms, and a small percentage may even be cancerous. 
The good news is that harmful nodules are relatively easy to detect, and thyroid cancer is one of the most treatable types of cancer.  That said, knowing the symptoms of harmful or cancerous thyroid nodules can help you seek treatment before they become serious—let’s dive in.
Located at the base of the neck, the thyroid is an endocrine gland that helps regulate metabolism.  When healthy, the thyroid gland shouldn’t cause any difficulty breathing or swallowing.
However, large thyroid nodules may make breathing and swallowing difficult. That’s because the thyroid gland covers the windpipe on three sides. Healthcare providers call this inability to breathe and swallow efficiently a globus sensation. 
In addition to difficulty breathing and swallowing, globus sensations symptoms appear in the following ways: 
While some globus sensation symptoms may be benign, difficulty breathing and swallowing means you may need to see your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
In many ways, the thyroid functions as an important biological “factory,” producing the essential hormone thyroxine. Thyroxine helps with the following: 
However, some thyroid nodules may produce too much thyroxine. When this occurs, patients may show signs of the thyroid disease known as hyperthyroidism. 
In short, hyperthyroidism is a condition caused by the excess production of thyroxine. So, can hyperthyroidism cause weight gain? It may, and other common symptoms of hyperthyroidism include: 
This type of thyroid disease can also impact the gastrointestinal, pulmonary, and reproductive systems. 
Knowing when to worry about thyroid nodules also means understanding hypothyroidism. If hyperthyroidism results from too much thyroxine production, hypothyroidism results from too little. Thyroid nodules may play a prominent role in limiting thyroxine production. 
Common symptoms of hypothyroidism include: 
Given the often serious symptoms associated with hypothyroidism, it’s important to test your thyroxine levels. That way, you can see if your thyroid nodules are contributing to your hypothyroidism.
Want to know how to check your thyroid at home? At-home thyroid tests that measure thyroid hormone levels are excellent places to start. These tests can let you know if you’re at risk of developing hyper or hypothyroidism. They can even walk you through your treatment options.
As stated above, most thyroid nodules are benign. However, around five percent of thyroid nodules are cancerous.  Common symptoms of cancerous thyroid nodules include: 
If you suspect your thyroid nodules are cancerous, it’s important to see your healthcare provider as soon as possible for a physical examination.
One of the easiest ways to check your thyroid nodules is to feel the base of your neck. If you feel or see a large lump, you may need to visit your healthcare provider Your healthcare provider may then have you undergo one or more of the following tests: 
Your healthcare provider may also measure the levels of your three main thyroid hormones. You can also measure these hormones at home using an at-home lab test.
In most cases, thyroid nodules are nothing to worry about. However, some thyroid nodules can be harmful. Harmful thyroid nodules can contribute to hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, and thyroid cancer. As a result, testing your vital thyroid hormone levels is one of the best ways to stay on top of your nodules.
No one understands this better than Everlywell. Our Thyroid Test measures three main thyroid hormone levels. We’ll even send you personalized, actionable results after a CLIA-certified lab reviews your sample.
Test your thyroid levels the right way with Everlywell.