Thyroid Cancer

The thyroid gland, located at the base of the throat, consists of two lobes connected by a narrow neck. The thyroid gland produces hormones that keep metabolism functioning in a normal fashion.

Thyroid cancer is a fairly rare form of cancer that accounts for only about one percent of all cancers. If left untreated, cancer cells may break away and spread to other parts of the body. Exactly what causes most cases of thyroid cancer is unknown.

Doctors screen for thyroid cancer by feeling the gland, to check for a lump or nodule. If a doctor feels a nodule, it does not mean cancer is present. Most thyroid nodules are not cancerous.

There are two common methods of investigating a thyroid lump or nodule: 1) ultrasound, to locate and describe the lump, and 2) biopsy, to determine if the lump may be cancerous.

Thyroid ultrasound creates pictures by bouncing sound waves off the gland. This technique is painless and quick, but it cannot determine whether a lump is benign. The ultrasound device uses high frequency sound waves that people cannot hear. A computer uses the echoes from the tissue to create a picture called a sonogram. From the picture, the doctor can see how many nodules are present, how big they are, and whether they are solid or filled with fluid. The scan is quick and painless.

InHealth Imaging was the first in Western Washington to offer Afirma Thyroid FNA Analysis.


Afirma Thyroid FNA Analysis

Fine needle aspiration (FNA) / Afirma Thyroid FNA Analysis is a simple way to examine the cells of a thyroid nodule. First, one of our radiologists will perform a Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA) under the guidance of ultrasound and a very thin needle (smaller than one used to draw blood) is used to extract the nodule cells. We send the cells to Veracyte, a cytopathology lab in San Francisco, whose cytopathologists specialized in thyroid pathology perform the latest in thyroid cancer analysis. The Afirma Thyroid FNA Analysis, is used to assess whether a lump (nodule) on your thyroid gland is likely to be benign or malignant (cancerous). Although most thyroid nodules are benign, the only way to be sure is to look closely at the cells that make up your nodule.

Afirma analysis goes one step beyond traditional cytopathology when results are indeterminate. Using a gene expression classifier (approved for clinical use in 2010), Veracyte assesses the DNA of the nodule. The activity level of 142 genes is measured within each nodule and then the nodule is classified as either benign (risk of cancer less than 6%) or suspicious for cancer. Before Afirma™, the majority of patients with indeterminate results were recommended to have surgery even though only a fraction of their nodules would ultimately be deemed malignant. The Molecular Classifier is the preventive answer to “indeterminate” results and is only available from Veracyte. This saves health care costs and unnecessary surgeries.


InHealth Imaging is the only Clinical Site in the West Puget Sound offering The Afirma Thyroid FNA Analysis: