The thyroid gland produces hormones that control growth in children and young adults and in addition regulate how the body uses energy resources. Shaped like a butterfly, it is situated just below the Adam's Apple at the base of the neck.
Thyroid surgery may be required for the following reasons:
- to take a biopsy to diagnose whether a lump (also known as a thyroid 'nodule') is thyroid cancer
- to treat thyroid cancer – this may involve partial or complete removal of the thyroid gland (thyroidectomy is removal of the whole thyroid and hemithyroidectomy refers to the removal of half of the thyroid)
- to treat physical symptoms of an enlarged thyroid (also known as 'goitre'), such as discomfort or problems swallowing
- for cosmetic reasons to reduce the size of a swollen thyroid
- to treat an overactive thyroid
- where other treatment has not succeeded
If an operation is performed to remove a cancerous nodule, further surgery may be required in the neck to remove lymph nodes in the vicinity of the thyroid gland. This procedure is known as a 'neck dissection'.
Thyroid surgery can be conducted either using a 'standard' neck incision.
Thyroid surgery is normally carried out under general anaesthetic.