Women are more likely to develop thyroid enlargement during pregnancy and the menopause

Always see your doctor straight away if you find a lump in your neck

What is a goitre?

A swelling of the thyroid gland is known as a “goitre”.

There are many different conditions of the thyroid which can cause a goitre.

These include:

  • Benign nodule(s)
  • Benign cyst
  • Thyroiditis
  • Tumours

The commonest causes of Goitre are :

  • Single thyroid nodule – usually benign and often not requiring treatment.
  • Multinodular goitre – very common and only requires an operation if there are problems with swallowing or breathing due to pressure on the windpipe and gullet.
  • Thyroiditis – often caused by autoimmune thyroid conditions associated with an over-active or under-active thyroid.



Most patients present with a lump in the neck which is painless. This is usually located in the lower part of the neck in the midline. The lump or swelling tends to elevate on swallowing.

Occasionally if the lump becomes large it can lead to compressive symptoms.

These can include :

  • tightness in the throat or sensation of strangulation
  • swallowing difficulty
  • breathing difficulty


Not all patients with thyroid enlargement require treatment. However, patients should undergo assessment of the swelling with an ultrasound scan. Some patients require a fine needle aspiration biopsy (FNAB) at the same time.

If the scan and/or biopsy are reassuring, then no further treatment is required.

Some people may require repeat scanning to ensure there has been no significant change over a period of time.

However, if a tumour is identified or the swelling is large and causing pressure symptoms, surgery may be required. This is known as a Thyroidectomy.

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