When preparing for thyroid surgery, as with any type of surgery, patients do well to try to be informed as possible. It is your body. You are entitled to know exactly what’s going on, what can be done about it, who is most qualified to do the job (surgery) and any and all risks.
What’s Going On?
The first reason for surgery, although considered a minor procedure, is when a fine needle aspiration biopsy is performed. This occurs after the doctor detects a lump in the thyroid and wants to ensure that the lump or nodule is benign. If the cells withdrawn from the thyroid is cancerous – or highly suspicious of cancer – more surgery will be needed. In the case of benign nodules or goiters, additional surgery is only needed if the nodule becomes so large that breathing is restricted. In some cases, surgery has been used to regulate and treat hyperthyroidism.
What Can be Done About it?
According to the American Thyroid Association (ATA), there are four types of surgeries for thyroid conditions. The one chosen for you depends on what type of condition you have. The first one is the biopsy or lumpectomy. This procedure removes only a minute part of the thyroid gland. Especially is this true in the case of the biopsy where the doctor only removes enough to be evaluated for cancer. Second, there is the lobectomy where over half the gland can be removed. Next is the subtotal thyroidectomy, in which nearly the entire thyroid gland is removed. And lastly, there is the total thyroidectomy in which, as the name implies, the whole thyroid is removed.
Who is Most Qualified to Do the Job?
In most cases, the attending doctor will refer you to a surgeon. No doubt, the surgeon will be experienced - one who has been specifically trained in this area. Even so, remember, you as the patient should feel free to ask any questions regarding the experience and credentials of the surgeon recommended.
Are There Any Risks?
Although the overall risks (as reported by the ATA) are less that 2%, there are risks to be considered. Some are as follows: bleeding which may lead to complications, permanent hoarseness, and hypoparathyroidism due to damage to the parathyroid gland. It is fair to mention; however, that the above risks occur most when patients have invasive tumors, have had multiple thyroid surgeries, and/or have very large goiters.
After the healing process, patients should be fully able to return to their normal routine. Some, however, do become hypothyroid after surgery. The treatment for hypothyroidism is thyroid hormones. In the case of aftercare for thyroid cancer patients who become hypothyroid, the doctor will administer radioactive iodine before giving any patient thyroid hormone therapy.
Remember, being healthy and happy is about being educated and aware!
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