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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Surgery for Thyroid Diseases/Cancer

Your thyroid is a gland that is located in your neck.  It produces hormones that help your body function properly.  Surgery is used as a treatment for many thyroid diseases, including an enlarged thyroid, nodules, overactive thyroid, and cancer.

Depending on what condition you have, there are a number of surgical options: biopsy or lumpectomy, removing only a small part of the thyroid; lobectomy, removing half the thyroid; subtotal thyroidectomy, removing almost all the thyroid, except for a small part on each side of the neck; near-total thyroidectomy, only leaving a small part of the thyroid on one side of the neck; and total thyroidectomy, removing the whole thyroid gland.

You should ask your surgeon questions so you understand your options.  You should ask about the risks involved with the operation, as well as how much of the thyroid your surgeon will be removing.  Once you decide on the surgery, your surgeon will give you instructions you need to follow before your surgery.  You will also meet with an anesthesiologist before the surgery.  If you’ve had an allergic reaction to anesthesia in the past, make sure you tell the anesthesiologist.  This should be in your medical record.  Depending on what type of surgery you have, the surgery will usually last between 2-2 ½ hours.  Most people will be able to go home the day after the surgery and you will receive instructions on what to do to take care of yourself.

Thyroid Cancer:
Anyone can get thyroid cancer but there are certain factors that may increase your risk.  Women have a higher rate of thyroid cancer than men.  You are at a higher risk if you are between 25 and 64.  Having a family member with thyroid disease also increases your risk.  Also, if you are of Asian descent, you are at an increased risk.

You should see your health care provider if you have a lump or swelling in your neck.  They may order a variety of tests to diagnose the problem, including which type of cancer you may have.   If surgery is recommended, depending on what type of cancer you have and how far it has spread, you will have one of the surgeries described above.

For more information, check out these links:

Thyroid Surgery (American Thyroid Association)

Thyroid Cancer (PDQ): Treatment (National Cancer Institute)

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