Sandbox thyroid adenoma

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [2]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Ammu Susheela, M.D. [3]


A thyroid adenoma, or solitary thyroid nodule is a benign tumor of the thyroid gland.


Almost all thyroid adenomas are follicular adenomas.[1] Follicular adenomas can be described as "cold", "warm" or "hot" depending on their level of function.[2] Histopathologically, follicular adenomas can be classified according to their cellular architecture and relative amounts of cellularity and colloid into the following types:

  • Fetal (microfollicular) - these have the potential for microinvasion.[3] These consist of small, closely packed follicles lined with epithelium.[4]
  • Colloid (macrofollicular) - these do not have any potential for microinvasion[3]
  • Embryonal (atypical) - have the potential for microinvasion.[3]
  • Hürthle cell adenoma (oxyphil or oncocytic tumor) - have the potential for microinvasion.[3]
  • Hyalinizing trabecular adenoma[5]

Papillary adenomas are very rare.[3]


A thyroid adenoma may be clinically silent, or it may be a "functional" tumor, producing excessive thyroid hormone. In this case, it may result in symptomatic hyperthyroidism, and may be referred to as a toxic thyroid adenoma. Careful pathological examination may be necessary to distinguish a thyroid adenoma from a minimally invasive follicular thyroid carcinoma.


Thyroid follicular adenoma ranges in diameter from 3 cm on an average, but sometimes is larger (up to 10 cm) or smaller. The typical thyroid adenoma is solitary, spherical and encapsulated lesion that is well demarcated from the surrounding parenchyma. The color ranges from gray-white to red-brown, depending upon

  1. the cellularity of the adenoma
  2. the colloid content.

Areas of hemorrhage, fibrosis, calcification, and cystic change, similar to what is found in multinodular goiters, are common in thyroid (follicular) adenoma, particularly in larger lesions.


Differentiating Thyroid adenoma from other Diseases

A thyroid adenoma is distinguished from a multinodular goiter of the thyroid in that an adenoma is typically solitary, and is a neoplasm resulting from a genetic mutation (or other genetic abnormality) in a single precursor cell.[6] In contrast, a multinodular goiter is usually thought to result from a hyperplastic response of the entire thyroid gland to a stimulus, such as iodine deficiency.

Careful pathological examination may be necessary to distinguish a thyroid adenoma from a minimally invasive follicular thyroid carcinoma.[6]


Most patients with thyroid adenoma can be managed by watchful waiting (without surgical excision) with regular monitoring.[7] However, some patients still choose surgery after being fully informed of the risks.[7] Regular monitoring mainly consists of watching for changes in nodule size and symptoms, and repeat ultrasonography or needle aspiration biopsy if the nodule grows.[7]


  1. Cotran, Ramzi S.; Kumar, Vinay; Fausto, Nelson; Nelso Fausto; Robbins, Stanley L.; Abbas, Abul K. (2005). Robbins and Cotran pathologic basis of disease. St. Louis, Mo: Elsevier Saunders. p. 1117. ISBN 0-7216-0187-1.
  2. "Endocrine Pathology". Retrieved 2009-05-08.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 emedicine > Thyroid, Evaluation of Solitary Thyroid Nodule > Benign Thyroid Nodules By Daniel J Kelley and Arlen D Meyers. Updated: Oct 17, 2008
  4. TheFreeDictionary > microfollicular adenoma Citing: Dorland's Medical Dictionary for Health Consumers. Copyright 2007
  5. Ünlütürk, U; Karaveli, G; Sak, S. D.; Erdoğan, M. F. (2011). "Hyalinizing trabecular tumor in a background of lymphocytic thyroiditis: A challenging neoplasm of the thyroid". Endocrine Practice. 17 (6): e140–3. doi:10.4158/EP11138.CR. PMID 21940281.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Ramzi Cotran, Vinay Kumar, Tucker Collins (1999). Robbins Pathologic Basis of Disease, 6th Edition. W.B. Saunders. ISBN 0-7216-7335-X.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Treatment section in: Welker, M.; Orlov, D. (2003). "Thyroid nodules". American family physician. 67 (3): 559–566. PMID 12588078. [1]