Thyroid Cancer Treatment Thyroidectomy Surgery

Thyroid removal surgery, or thyroidectomy, is one of the most widely used and effective forms of thyroid cancer treatment. Although thyroid cancer symptoms may be minimal, once a doctor diagnoses cancer, the next step is usually to determine which sort of thyroid removal surgery is optimal.

Three types of thyroidectomy surgery are available:

  • Lobectomy: Removes about one-quarter of the thyroid
  • Subtotal or Partial Thyroidectomy: Removes about one-half of the thyroid
  • Thyroidectomy: Removes the complete thyroid gland.

Complete removal of the thyroid gland is the most recommended surgery for thyroid cancer patients, but recommendations vary among institutions. A total thyroidectomy surgery is the type most likely to get rid of all of the cancerous cells, whether the cancer is one of the more aggressive medullary or anaplastic forms, or the more common and easily treated papillary and follicular types.

Full or Partial Thyroidectomy Surgery?

Determining the extent of thyroid cancer surgery is based on a number of factors, including:

  • Age
  • Diagnosis
  • Gender
  • Hypothyroidism concerns
  • Lymph node involvement
  • Nodule size.

There is some debate within the medical community regarding the advisability of full or partial thyroidectomies for patients with early stage papillary and follicular cancers, due to hypothyroidism issues.

When the complete thyroid is removed, it can’t make any more thyroid hormones. Patients will need to take thyroid hormone pills for the rest of their lives to keep their metabolism on an even keel. Some doctors seek to spare their patients a lifetime of hormone therapy, and opt for partial thyroidectomy surgery. Other doctors say hypothyroidism is possible even with only partial thyroid removal surgery and recommend what they feel is a more effective form of thyroid cancer treatment. Be sure to discuss all the particulars of your case with your physician.

Thyroid Removal Surgery

Thyroid surgery is usually a fairly straightforward process. Patients may stay in the hospital for one to two nights, although in some cases thyroidectomy surgery is performed on an outpatient basis. A general anesthetic is commonly used, but some surgeons do conduct the procedure with a local anesthetic.

During the procedure, a 3 to 5 inch incision is made in the lower neck and the surgeon removes the thyroid. The surgeon must also take care to avoid the laryngeal nerves, which control the voice box, and the parathyroid glands, which regulate calcium levels. Thyroid removal surgery incisions usually heal very well.

Thyroid Surgery Recovery

After thyroidectomy surgery, you can eat and drink as usual and return to your regular activities within a few weeks. Discuss the details of your recovery plan with your physician. Depending on how much of your thyroid was removed, you may also need to discuss thyroid hormone replacement therapy.

Patients commonly experience short-term neck stiffness and pain on swallowing after surgery, as well as a little hoarseness. These symptoms should go away rapidly. If they don’t, or if you notice muscle cramps or tingling, contact your physician.


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