The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that lies in close vicinity to the voice box. Hence, when people speak, vibrations are transmitted to the gland and can be picked up by an ultrasound probe on the skin.
By detecting a change in the character of the sound waves, could malignant tumours of the thyroid gland be detected? A new research paper published in the journal Applied Physics Letters has studied this question. The initial results seem promising.
The shear wave elastography (SWE) method involves holding the ultrasound probe on the thyroid and then asking the person to make an 'eee' sound at 150 Hz. The person is guided using an instructional sound to match the required wavelength.
Software created by the researchers then detects these vibrations and generates a report of the velocity of the vibrations which usually passes faster through stiff tissues.
This is used along with the ultrasound report to identify hidden malignant tumours of the thyroid.
In thyroid cancer. the tissues become stiff and hard. This causes the vibrations to travel faster than in healthy or benign tissues. The test has been found effective in analysing stiffened tissues but is yet to be seen how it differentiates between the stiff and healthy or benign tissues. It is advised to consult your endocrinologist to know more about the thyroid.