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Surgery for thyroid cancer

How is thyroid cancer surgery done?

Thyroid surgery or a thyroidectomy is done when a tumour is present in the rectum. Dr. Noorbhai will work in conjunction with the rest of your oncology team. Depending on how far the cancer has spread you may have surgery in conjunction with chemotherapy and radiation. Depending on the stage of cancer, you may have one of the following surgeries:

  • Lobectomy - this surgery is done for small thyroid tumours and only a small tumour is removed from the thyroid, leaving the gland intact.
  • Thyroidectomy - this surgery is done to remove the entire thyroid gland. After this surgery medication will be needed to supplement for the lack of hormones the thyroid is responsible for producing.

In addition, the nearby lymph nodes may also be removed at the same time.

Why would this surgery be done?

Thyroid surgery is done to remove a cancerous tumour from the thyroid. Which type of surgery will depend on the stage of cancer you have been diagnosed with and the location of the tumour. If you have been diagnosed with cancer, chemotherapy and radiation may be advised in combination with surgery and therefore a plan should be discussed with your oncologist and Dr Noorbhai.

How long will I be in hospital?

Most thyroidectomy patients are able to go home after a night’s stay and observation in hospital. The morning after surgery, your incisions will be evaluated and fluids drained if necessary. How soon you will be discharged from hospital depends on whether you are able to drink liquids when waking up, how much pain you have and whether you have someone to look after you at home.

What will happen after thyroid cancer surgery?

You may experience pain after surgery, however Dr Noorbhai will try make you as comfortable as possible. Following surgery you may experience the following:

  • Neck pain.
  • Sore and hoarse voice.
  • Red skin around your wounds.

All these symptoms are normal and are nothing to be concerned about, your voice should return to normal in a few days. Re-consult if you have an unusually high temperature, chills, vomiting, swelling around the incisions, bleeding, oozing from the wound, you are experiencing excessive pain or you cannot talk as emergency care may be needed. Approximately 3 weeks after your operation you will be seen by your surgeon to check your wounds.

How soon after the surgery can I resume normal activities?

You will be able to resume normal activities soon after your surgery, however it is important to start slowly. If you experience pain during a certain activities, stop that activity. You may not do any heavy lifting or vigorous physical activity for at least 10 – 14 days after surgery.

What are the potential risks and complications of thyroid cancer surgery?

The risk of complications during open surgery include:

  • Infection of the wound or internal infection.
  • Airway obstruction caused by bleeding.
  • Bleeding.
  • Damage to the parathyroid glands which may lead to hyperthyroidism.
  • Permanent hoarse voice to nerve damage.
  • Risks from general anaesthetic.
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