Physicians are providing thyroid cancer patients with new options for less invasive procedures that can reduce or eliminate the scar left behind after thyroid cancer surgery.
Traditional thyroid cancer treatments involve excising the entire thyroid gland, or sections of it, to eliminate the cancer and minimize the risk of tumor recurrence. This typically requires a three to five inch incision at the base of the neck to remove the butterfly-shaped thyroid that spans across both sides of the lower throat just below the “adam’s apple.”
Using techniques generally applied for facial cosmetic surgery or new high-tech robotic instruments that minimize trauma to surgical sites are two ways that surgeons can now treat thyroid cancer with minimal to no scarring.
Most patients with thyroid cancer are concerned with the cosmetic end result, especially women who are more than three to four times more likely to get thyroid cancer than men, explains Dr. David Terris from the Medical College of Georgia Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.
Dr. Terris found that simply marking incision sites while the patient is sitting so that the scar blends into the natural folds of the neck improves the aesthetic outcome of a thyroid surgery. "You want the incision to be in a location that corresponds to a cosmetically favorable area when you are upright at a dinner party, not stretched out on an operating room table," says Dr. Terris in a Science Daily article.
He limits the size of the opening in the skin as much as possible and the separation of muscle and underlying tissue during surgery to minimize trauma and to promote healing. Dr. Terris also employs clinical-grade glues to seal the suture line to create a finer and less obvious scar than the “railroad-tracking” left by traditional sutures or staples.
A dramatic technical improvement toward less invasive surgery for thyroid cancer involves the use of robotics, or computer-assisted surgical systems (CAS). This approach was developed over the past decade for various types of surgeries and recently has been applied to thyroidectomies.