An analysis of management of 546 cases of solitary thyroid nodules in an endemic area is presented. None of the evaluating procedures could effectively isolate benign from malignant disease. Of 508 cases considered clinically to be benign, 42 harboured malignancy on histological examination whereas of the 38 cases suspected clinically to be malignant, 21 were histologically benign. 131I-Thyroid scanning also lacked sensitivity in identifying malignant nodules since the prevalence of malignancy in cases which were 'cold' (44/316) was not significantly different from that amongst the 'uniform' cases (15/142). Fine-needle aspiration cytology, although the most sensitive and specific evaluating modality, did not decrease the number of operations for solitary thyroid nodules nor did it increase the incidence of malignancy amongst the operated cases, because of its limitations in differentiating benign from malignant follicular neoplasms. The conditions under which surgery was advocated are described.
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