Surgery is the main treatment for most thyroid cancers. The goal of surgery is to remove the cancer and keep as much thyroid tissue and function as possible.
A thyroidectomy is the removal of part or all of the thyroid. The amount of tissue removed depends on the size, location, and type of tumor.
Thyroidectomies can be done as:
- Open —An incision is made along the neck. The thyroid gland and area around it will be visible.
- Minimally invasive —Small incisions will be made around the thyroid. Small tools will be passed through the incisions in the neck. They can be used to see the area and remove tissue. Smaller incisions can lead to shorter recovery time than the open option. This may not be an option for everyone. The doctor may also need to move to an open surgery if there are complications during a minimally invasive surgery.
Types of thyroid surgery include:
- Lobectomy —A lobe of the thyroid is removed. A lobectomy may be chosen if the tumor is small and just in 1 lobe.
- Near-total thyroidectomy —Removal of nearly all of the thyroid gland. This option may be chosen if cancer is in both lobes but there is still some healthy tissue left.
- Total thyroidectomy —Removal of the entire thyroid gland. This option is used if cancer is widespread.
Medicine may be needed to replace the work of the thyroid. This may include daily thyroid hormone pills and vitamin D and calcium supplements.
Central Neck Dissection
Central neck dissection will include work on other tissue in the neck. It may be needed if cancer has spread beyond the thyroid. The lymph nodes are often involved at this point. The affected lymph nodes and other affected tissue are removed. Lymph tissue will be examined under a microscope for cancer. This will show how many lymph nodes need to be removed.
Cancer growth and swelling can put pressure on the airway. This can make it hard to breathe. A tracheotomy may be needed. A hole is created through the neck below the thyroid. A tube is inserted through the hole to allow air to move in and out of the lungs. It may be needed for a short time or left in permanently.
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Last reviewed September 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP Last Updated: 12/29/2020