If you’ve been diagnosed with one or more thyroid nodules, your healthcare provider will want to make sure it isn’t cancerous. The easiest way to do this is by taking a small sample – called a biopsy – of the nodule’s tissue. This is done with a procedure known as fine needle aspiration, or FNA. FNAs are done at a short appointment in a doctor’s office or at a radiology center.

During an FNA, a very thin needle (even smaller than one used to draw blood) is inserted into your thyroid to collect cells from one or more nodules. An FNA biopsy is very precise thanks to the needle being so small and your doctor being able to monitor the location of the nodule and the needle with an ultrasound machine. This simple procedure is quick and usually is no more painful than a pinch. Bleeding is uncommon from the biopsy and most people don’t require any special steps afterward. Some doctors suggest an over-the-counter pain killer and applying ice for people that have discomfort.
This FNA tissue sample is sent to a specialist called a cytopathologist – a doctor who is trained at recognizing diseases by examining cells under a microscope. The cytopathologist’s goal is to determine if the nodule is likely benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer). However, sometimes the diagnosis is “indeterminate” – the cytopathologist cannot tell if the nodule’s cells are benign or malignant. The Afirma solution helps reduce some of this uncertainty by combining the cytopathologist’s reading with a new genomic test. Afirma results help your doctor confidently recommend a treatment plan and determine if surgery is indeed needed or unnecessary at this time.