Surgery is the main treatment for most thyroid tumors. The best approach is determined based on several patient-specific factors, including the type, size, location and stage of the tumor, as well as the patient’s overall health and preferences.
The main types of thyroid cancer surgery are:
Total thyroidectomy (thyroid surgery)
The most common type of thyroid cancer surgery, a total thyroidectomy involves the removal of the entire thyroid gland through a small incision in the lower central neck. All critical structures on both sides of the thyroid are maintained, including the four parathyroid glands and the nerves that supply movement and sensation to the voice box (the recurrent laryngeal nerve and the external branch of the superior laryngeal nerve).
The thyroid gland has two halves—the left lobe and the right lobe—which are separated by a piece of tissue known as an isthmus. A thyroid lobectomy involves the removal of one-half of the thyroid, which may be appropriate for treating a small tumor that is confined to one lobe. The healthy half of the thyroid is preserved, as are all critical structures located nearby.
Thyroid cancer surgery on lymph nodes (lymphadenectomy)
Thyroid cancer can potentially spread to the lymph nodes surrounding the thyroid gland, the breathing tube (trachea) and the swallowing tube (esophagus). These lymph nodes are situated between the carotid arteries and underneath the breast bones in an area known as the central compartment. Often performed along with a thyroidectomy, a compartmental dissection is a type of lymphadenectomy that involves the removal of lymph nodes and fatty tissues. All major nerves, blood vessels and muscles are spared.
Lateral neck dissection for thyroid cancer
A lateral neck dissection may be a treatment option for lymphatic metastasis or recurrent thyroid cancer. The procedure involves the removal of the lymph nodes situated alongside the jugular vein, which runs from the jawbone to the collarbone. All surrounding vital structures are left intact.
The complexity of thyroid cancer surgery
Thyroid cancer surgery is complex and requires a surgeon with a refined skill set. For instance, when performing a thyroidectomy, a surgeon must carefully work around vocal nerves and other vital structures when accessing the thyroid through a small incision in the front of the neck. To ensure the best possible outcome, it’s important to work with an experienced specialist who performs a high volume of thyroid cancer procedures.
Find the expert care you need at Moffitt Cancer Center
Through the Endocrine Oncology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center, patients have access to some of the most talented and well-respected head and neck surgeons in the world. As a high-volume cancer center, Moffitt has earned an outstanding reputation as a leader in thyroid cancer treatment, and our renowned surgeons have acquired a level of expertise that far exceeds that of many other surgeons. We are now performing complex thyroid cancer surgery to remove tumors that were once considered to be inoperable, and every day we gain ground toward finding a cure.
If you would like to learn more, you are welcome to request an appointment with an expert at Moffitt by calling 1-888-663-3488 or completing our new patient registration form online. In addition to thyroid cancer surgery, we offer other advanced options, such as tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) therapy and radioactive iodine treatment. As our patient, you can feel confident that the multispecialty team at Moffitt will begin planning your personalized treatment right away—even before you meet with our team.