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What Is Involved in Thyroid Cancer Surgery?

By Meshell Powell
Updated May 17, 2024
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There are several different types of thyroid cancer surgery, depending on the stage and exact location of the tumor. A total thyroidectomy is a type of thyroid cancer surgery that involves the complete removal of the entire thyroid gland. A near-total thyroidectomy is performed to remove most of the thyroid gland while leaving a portion of the gland intact, while a thyroid lobectomy removes only one lobe of the thyroid gland. Any questions or concerns about the type of thyroid cancer surgery that is most appropriate for an individual situation should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.

A total thyroidectomy is the most common type of thyroid cancer surgery, especially for the more aggressive forms of cancer. In most cases of thyroid cancer, malignant cells are found in both lobes of the thyroid gland. This surgical procedure provides the greatest chance of completely ridding the body of cancer and allows other forms of cancer treatment to be more effective.

Near-total thyroidectomy is a type of thyroid cancer surgery that involves the removal of most of the thyroid gland and may be used when a small tumor is present. A thyroid lobectomy may be performed when the tumor is confined to only one lobe of the thyroid gland. This is the least common type of thyroid cancer surgery due to the higher risks of the cancer recurring.

The procedure used for thyroid cancer surgery is largely the same, regardless of how much of the gland is removed. This operation is occasionally performed on an outpatient basis, although a one- to two-day stay in the hospital is more common. The patient is generally placed under general anesthesia, and the entire surgical procedure rarely takes more than a couple of hours to complete.

Once the patient is sedated, a small incision is made in the front of the neck so that the skin and muscles can be retracted to expose the thyroid gland. The blood supply to the area is then temporarily tied off, and the thyroid gland is separated from the trachea. The thyroid gland, or a portion of the gland, is then removed, surrounding tissues are repaired, and the incision is closed. In most cases, there is very little scarring associated with thyroid cancer surgery. Complications from this surgery are rare, but any negative side effects should be reported to a doctor right away for further medical evaluation.

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