Neck & Thyroid Lumps

When you, or your doctor, discover a lump in your neck, your first thought is probably: How quickly can I find out what it is? You are not alone. Waiting for an appointment and for results from tests can make you feel anxious and afraid.

Avoid the wait

At the Swedish Cancer Institute (SCI), the Neck Mass and Thyroid Nodule Biopsy Clinic has a process that eliminates the wait for test results. In most cases, in just one visit, on one day and in one location, you can have:

  1. An ultrasound examination
  2. A biopsy (if needed)
  3. A review by a pathologist
  4. A surgical consultation
  5. An answer to your question, so your doctors can plan your next steps

The only exception to this schedule is a lump your doctor thinks might be lymphoma. In that case, the review by the pathologist will take a little more time.

Why is “one visit/one day/one location” important?

In some places, it may take days or weeks to get test results from a biopsy. Not knowing the results naturally creates anxiety.

At SCI, we want your wait to be as short as possible, so we can help reduce your anxiety and fear.

We also want to make it convenient for you and your doctor. With just one call, your doctor can request an appointment for you at Swedish First Hill in Seattle.

Typically these appointments are available within one day.

What is a biopsy?

A biopsy is an outpatient procedure to collect a tiny sample of tissue or fluid. The type of biopsy we use to help diagnose a lump is called a fine needle aspiration or FNA.

Preparing for the FNA: The skin over the lump will be cleaned with an antiseptic. Numbing medicine will help reduce any discomfort.

During the FNA: An ultrasound will show the surgeon exactly where to insert a very thin needle through your skin and into the lump. The needle is attached to a syringe, so the surgeon can withdraw the tissue sample.

After the FNA: A pathologist looks at the sample under a microscope and gives the surgeon information about what is causing the lump. You may experience a little pain or swelling at the site of the FNA.

Watch a video of one patient’s experience, including fine needle aspiration.

What happens after the biopsy?

Members of your care team at the Neck Mass and Thyroid Nodule Biopsy Clinic will work very closely with your personal doctor. They will share all of the test results and discuss various treatments.

Benign lump (not cancer): If the pathologist determines that the lump is benign and is not causing any problems with breathing or swallowing, the head and neck surgeon may recommend no immediate treatment. Instead, the surgeon may suggest a repeat ultrasound in six months. If the lump has changed during that time, the surgeon may suggest a repeat biopsy.

Malignant lump (cancer): If the results show that the lump is cancer, a team of cancer specialists will discuss your results and the available treatments before recommending the best treatment plan.

This one-visit, one-day, one-location process is just one example of how SCI brings together its experts, state-of-the-art resources and novel surgical techniques and approaches to care to support your health-care needs.