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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What is goiter?

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    Dr Jason Roth

    Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) Surgeon

    ENT and Facial Plastic surgeon with a special interest in adult and paediatric ENT problems, rhinoplasty, facial plastic surgery, nose and sinus disorders. View Profile

    Goiter or goitre is a non-specific term that simply means enlargement of the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is part of the endocrine system and is located at the base of the neck. When does a large thyroid gland become a goitre? This can be somewhat arbitrary. The World Health Organisation States a goitre is "a thyroid whose lateral lobes have a volume greater than the terminal phalanges of the thumbs of the person being examined".

    There are many causes of a goitre. The majority are thought to be due to benign stimulation of the thyroid gland cells (follicles). This can be caused by iodine deficiency, genetic problems and certain foods and medications (known as goitrogens). However in many cases no cause is found and the thyroid gland continues to function normally.

    Other causes of a goitre (rarer) include nodules (solitary or multiple) and thyroid cancer. Thyroid cancer is rare. 

    Goitre is usually best approached through a multi-disciplinary team involving an endocrinologist and ear, nose and throat or head and neck specialist. 

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