Ultrasound of the thyroid

An ultrasound scans use high frequency sound waves to create a picture of a part of the body. The ultrasound scanner has a microphone that gives off sound waves.

The sound waves bounce off the organs inside your body, and the microphone picks them up. The microphone links to a computer that turns the sound waves into a picture on the screen.

Your doctor uses the scan to:

  • look at your thyroid and neck to see if there are lots of lumps or just one
  • see if the lumps are solid or filled with fluid (cysts)

Ultrasound scans are completely painless. They are usually done in the hospital x-ray department by a sonographer. 

Preparing for an ultrasound

There isn’t usually any special preparation for an ultrasound. You will need to remove any clothing around your neck such as a tie or scarf. You will also be asked to remove any jewellery such as a necklace or chain.

Take your medication as normal.

What happens?

You lie on your back on a couch for the scan Your chin will be lifted a little to keep your neck clear. The sonographer puts a cold lubricating gel on your neck. Then they gently move the handheld probe over your skin. The gel helps the probe to slide over your skin so that the sonographer gets clear pictures on the screen.

You might feel a little pressure when the sonographer moves the probe over your neck. Tell them if it is uncomfortable.

An ultrasound takes just a few minutes. The sonographer might ask you to move position a few times, so they can get the clearest pictures.

You can have a family member or a friend with you while you have the scan. Just let the sonographer know that someone will be with you.

You can eat and drink normally after the scan .

You can go straight home or back to work afterwards.

Getting your results

You should get your results within 1 or 2 weeks. 

Waiting for results can make you anxious. Ask your doctor or nurse how long it will take to get them. Contact the doctor who arranged the test if you haven’t heard anything after a couple of weeks.

You might have contact details for a specialist nurse who you can contact for information if you need to. It may help to talk to a close friend or relative about how you feel.

For information and support, you can call the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040. The lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

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