With an average of over 50,000 cases of thyroid cancer reported every year, it’s a good thing that September raises thyroid awareness worldwide. A variety of health risks can stem from your thyroid and potentially lead to cancer. Here at The Surgical Clinic, our thyroid specialists want to help inform and educate you in honor of Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month.

Thyroid Basics 101: (Anatomy and Purpose)

The thyroid is part of the endocrine system. This system includes is made up of endocrine glands, which include your pituitary gland, adrenal glands, and thyroid glands. The endocrine system is responsible for the body’s growth and development. It also secretes hormones like adrenaline and cortisol.

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of your neck, just below your Adam’s apple. The purpose of this gland is to produce, store and release hormones that control your metabolism. The thyroid hormones are also responsible for vital bodily functions like energy use, body temperature, and oxygen consumption.

thyroid cancer diagram

What About Thyroid Cancer?

Thyroid cancer develops when cells begin to change or mutate. Some people may not experience any symptoms while others do. Symptoms of thyroid cancer include a small swollen lump in the neck, trouble swallowing, or neck/throat pain. If you begin to experience these symptoms, please call one of our general surgeons at The Surgical Clinic.

The Four Types of Thyroid Cancer

  • Papillary
  • Follicular
  • Medullary
  • Anaplastic

Papillary thyroid cancer is the most common form of thyroid cancer. It grows slowly but may spread to lymph nodes on the neck.

Follicular cancer second most common form of thyroid cancer. It grows slowly and is found more in places with high iodine deficiencies. This is also one of the easiest types of thyroid cancer to treat.

These two types of cancer are also called differentiated thyroid cancers. In plain English, this means that the cancer cells look and behave much like normal cells. It is for this reason that thyroid cancer is harder to detect without testing.

Medullary is a less common form and is usually hereditary. It is most likely to spread to lymph nodes than papillary thyroid cancer.

Finally, anaplastic cancer is much rarer, but the most aggressive form. It grows and spreads quickly, and is very dangerous.

thyroid cancer awareness signs and symptoms

What are the Risks of Thyroid Cancer?

According to the National Cancer Institute, individuals with the following risk factors are more at risk of developing a type of thyroid cancer.

  1. Anyone between the ages of 25 and 65
  2. Anyone with childhood exposure to radiation. Particularly to the head or neck.
  3. Anyone with a family history of thyroid disease or thyroid cancer.
  4. Anyone with a history of goiters or enlarged thyroids.

Other risk factors include gender, ethnicity, and genetic conditions. You can read more about these conditions on the National Cancer Institute’s website.

Preparing for Thyroid Cancer Surgery

Most thyroid cancers require surgery for treatment. Your doctor will discuss with you the steps you should take to prepare for your surgery. These steps may include pausing medications such as aspirin or other blood thinners as well as some herbs and supplements. You will also be advised to not eat or drink anything for 12 hours before the surgery.

Types of Thyroid Cancer Surgery

  • Lobectomy
  • Thyroidectomy
  • Transoral and Parathyroid scarless surgery
  • Lymph node removal

A lobectomy removes the lobe containing the cancer and is best for thyroid cancers that are small and show no signs of having spread to other parts of the body. After a lobectomy, patients typically don’t need thyroid hormone pills, since the whole thyroid is not removed. However, leaving part of the thyroid can cause issues with cancer recurrence tests.

In contrast to a lobectomy, a thyroidectomy removes the whole thyroid gland. Most surgeons perform a thyroidectomy through a small incision at the bottom of the neck, leaving a scar that fades over time. Because the surgeon removes the entire thyroid, patients will need to take hormone pills. On the plus side, doctors can easily test for recurrence using radioiodine scans and thyroglobulin blood tests.

Most people do not want scars after surgery. Thankfully, transoral and parathyroid surgery leave no scars. The surgeon makes three incisions in the lower lip and uses special instruments that pass under the skin to access the thyroid for either partial or full removal.

For advanced thyroid cancers that have spread to nearby lymph nodes in the neck, a surgeon will remove those lymph nodes. Typically, medullary thyroid cancer and anaplastic cancer require a lymph node removal.

During Surgery

During your consultation, your doctor will walk you through the steps of your surgery.

First, you will be administered with an IV in the arm or hand that will provide your body with fluids and medication needed for the procedure. You’ll then be given general anesthesia to keep you asleep and free of pain throughout the surgery. An incision is then made at the bottom of your neck along a crease in your skin.

The surgeon will decide how much of the thyroid gland is removed. This will depend on how far cancer has spread. As a result, your surgeon may not know how much to remove until the day of your surgery. After the thyroid has been removed, the incision is then closed with sutures.

Post Surgery

Once the anesthesia has worn off, you will be advised to get up slowly and walk around. You may spend some time staying in the hospital or surgery center after the surgery. In most cases, you will be able to eat and drink the evening after your surgery.

You will then be tested to make sure your parathyroid glands are working properly. The stress of surgery may stop them from working for a short time. If this happens, you may be given calcium pills for a few days. You may also have a sore throat and a hoarse voice for a week or so after the surgery.

With all procedures, risks are possible. Some potential side effects of this procedure may include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Damage to nerves in your voice box. This can lead to a hoarse voice.
  • Damage to the parathyroid glands or their blood supply.


Thyroid Surgeons in Tennessee

If you feel a lump in your throat or are experiencing pain in the neck, we urge you to contact one of our general surgeons at The Surgical Clinic who specialize in thyroid/endocrine surgery.

General surgeons in Greater Nashville

dr suhail allos best general surgeon in nashville at southern hills

Dr. Suhail Allos
General Surgeon
Southern Hills

best surgeon dr john boskind TSC surgeon

Dr. John Boskind
General Surgeon

dr rachel bryant general surgeon nashville

Dr. Rachel Bryant
General Surgeon
St. Thomas West

Dr. Mark Cooper breast surgeon best general surgeons downtown nashville dr mark cooper with the surgical clinic

Dr. Mark Cooper
General Surgeon

dr patrick davis best bariatric and weight loss surgeon in nashville at southern hills

Dr. Patrick Davis
General Surgeon
Southern Hills

dr alex brent fruin general surgery

Dr. Alex Fruin
General Surgeon

Dr. Andrew Garrett, general surgeon in Columbia, TN at The Surgical Clinic

Dr. Andrew Garrett
General Surgeon

dr trudie goers for hernia surgery best general surgeon at the surgical clinic in nashville

Dr. Trudie Goers
General Surgeon
Downtown Nashville

Dr. Mark Hinson, general surgeon in Columbia, TN at The Surgical Clinic

Dr. Mark Hinson
General Surgeon

dr george lynch general and bariatric surgeon at the surgical clinic in nashville and middle tennessee

Dr. George Lynch
General Surgeon
Downtown Nashville

best general surgeon at the surgical clinic dr clinton marlar

Dr. Clinton Marlar
General Surgeon

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Dr. James McDowell
General Surgeon
Downtown Nashville

best robotic surgeon in tennessee dr willie melvin the surgical clinic rutherford hospital

Dr. Willie Melvin
General Surgeon

Dr. Chad Moss, MD, FACS general surgeon in Columbia, TN at The Surgical Clinic

Dr. Chad Moss
General Surgeon

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Dr. Davidson Oxley
General Surgeon

dr william polk best surgical oncologist general and oncology surgeon in nashville at the surgical clinic downtown nashville

Dr. William Polk
General Surgeon

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Dr. Drew Reynolds
General Surgeon
St. Thomas West

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Dr. Joshua Taylor
General Surgeon

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Dr. Tyson Thomas
General Surgeon
St. Thomas West

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Dr. Tyler Watson
General Surgeon
Summit Clinic

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Dr. Patrick Wolf
General Surgeon
St. Thomas West

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