Thyroid cancer surgery: What to consider

Hearing you have a thyroid nodule can be scary, but it doesn’t always mean you have cancer. In fact, only about 10% of thyroid nodules are malignant. But if you’ve been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, you may be feeling anxious about the next steps, which almost always include surgery. Below, Mark Zafereo, M.D., shares what to consider before undergoing thyroid cancer surgery. Get an accurate diagnosis It’s important that you’re comfortable with the evaluation of your thyroid nodule before undergoing surgery. Since most nodules aren’t cancerous, many patients don’t need surgery at all. There are four types of thyroid cancer. About 95% of thyroid cancers are either papillary thyroid cancer or follicular thyroid cancer. Patients with these cancers typically have a good prognosis. The remaining 5% are medullary thyroid cancer and anaplastic thyroid cancer, which can be more aggressive and may require more extensive treatment. There are different types of thyroid cancer surgery The type of surgery your doctor recommends will be based on a risk assessment that includes the tumor pathology, size and location. The simplest thyroid tumor surgery is a lobectomy. This procedure removes half the thyroid gland. When a thyroid tumor is more likely to spread, a total thyroidectomy (removal of the entire thyroid gland) may be performed. If the cancer has spread beyond the thyroid gland to surrounding lymph nodes, a more extensive surgery removing these lymph nodes may be needed. In rare cases, thyroid cancers may spread to other important structures of the neck, which may require more complex surgeries that are best performed by an expert thyroid and neck surgeon. Ask the right...