For most people with most types of thyroid cancer, the first treatment is surgery. Surgery for SCCA patients is performed at the UWMC main campus by UW Medicine surgeons who are very experienced in treating thyroid cancer. We use the most up-to-date information to guide surgical decisions.
Many studies show patients have fewer complications if they have surgery at a center that does a high volume of thyroid cancer surgeries, as we do.
Which type of thyroid surgery will I need?
Your first step toward surgery will be to meet with your thyroid surgeon, who will:
- Carefully review your imaging and biopsy results.
- Evaluate your health needs, and ask about your personal preferences.
- Explain your options, the type of surgery we recommend for you, why, and what to expect.
- Answer your questions about surgery.
Together, you’ll decide on a surgical plan.
The extent of your surgery depends on several factors, including where the cancer is located in your thyroid and if it has spread to your lymph nodes.
- If cancer is only in your thyroid, you may have half of your thyroid removed (hemithyroidectomy) or the entire thyroid removed (total thyroidectomy), depending on the size of the tumor, the appearance of the cancer on ultrasound, and other factors.
- If cancer is in your lymph nodes as well, the surgeon will remove your entire thyroid along with the group of lymph nodes involved.
What can I expect if I need surgery?
Your surgery team will talk with you about the benefits and risks of the procedure, how to prepare, what will happen during surgery, and how to best support your recovery.
- Operations can be as short as one hour or last multiple hours.
- You will have general anesthesia, so you will be completely asleep during the procedure.
- Depending on the extent of your surgery, you may go home the same day or spend one or two nights in the hospital.
- After surgery you can eat, drink, walk, and talk, but you will be tired and sore. Your team will give you medicine for pain and an ice pack to reduce swelling in your neck.
- If your entire thyroid is removed, you no longer produce thyroid hormone. To get the thyroid hormone your body requires, you’ll need thyroid hormone therapy.