Thyroid surgery at St. Vincent’s is performed by nationally respected ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgeons whose process involves the participation of a multidisciplinary team of expert medical professionals. This team includes board-certified endocrinologists, oncologists, anesthesiologists, medical and oncology radiologists, nurses and pathologists.
Their knowledge, input and regular review of the patient’s condition and progress ensures the most effective individualized treatment and care plan is followed. As a reflection of this expertise, St. Vincent’s was recently rated by U.S. News and World Report as among the nation’s top hospitals for ENT care.
Protecting Delicate Vocal Cords
St. Vincent’s has advanced equipment to monitor the nerve to the vocal cords, which is so important during delicate thyroid and parathyroid surgery. With specialized training in such thyroid and parathyroid surgery, our physicians have the experience to perform these surgeries avoiding damage to vocal cords and giving patients the best outcomes.
Medicine has improved in its detection of thyroid cancers so that they are more commonly diagnosed when they are small. A surgery to remove the thyroid gland and possibly lymph nodes will be followed by treatment to prevent reoccurrence.
Your thyroid is the gland located in the lower neck that regulates and controls your metabolism. Approximately 60 million Americans have problems relating to this important gland, and too many go undiagnosed. Here at St. Vincent’s, our skilled endocrinologists are able to recognize and diagnose the diseases, including hypo- and hyperthyroidism, that can be causing the discomfort and changes. Currently, it is estimated that women are about seven times more likely to suffer such thyroid problems than men.
The primary reason for thyroid surgery, however, is cancer. When a nodule on the thyroid is discovered, a determination should be made as to whether or not it is cancerous. At St. Vincent’s, the latest thyroid ultrasound techniques are used to identify the nodule. Other testing and lab work is then done on a tissue sample drawn from the nodule by what is called “fine-needle aspiration,” generally performed in the endocrinologist’s office. In the vast majority of cases, the nodule will be benign, or harmless. If determined to be cancerous, however, the surgical team will gather more necessary information and begin to implement plans for any necessary surgery.
Thyroid cancer is one of the least life-threatening cancers. Early detection and treatment at the hands of a surgeon skilled in the latest thyroid and parathyroid surgery techniques, however, ensures the smoothest, most successful recovery.
Part of this formula for success at St. Vincent’s includes the involvement, in each individual case, of our multidisciplinary team, which includes expert oncologists and our highly skilled radiologists using the latest technology and equipment. An example of this is the Siemens Antares ultrasound system that details with great clarity the size, shape, vascularity (blood vessel development) and internal composition of even tiny nodules - information critical to the oncologist’s evaluation of the cancer’s character and extent, and the surgeon’s choice of technique for its removal.
Symptoms of thyroid cancer
Most nodules are benign. In general, however, symptoms of thyroid cancer that must be brought to the attention of a physician include:
- A lump, nodule or enlarged lymph node in the neck
- Enlargement of the neck
- Hoarseness or voice change
- Difficulty swallowing or breathing; choking feeling
- Neck or throat pain (may go from the neck to the ears)
- Sensitivity in the neck
- Persistent cough not due to allergies or illness
Surgical removal of the nodule
Surgery is recommended when the nodule is determined to be cancerous. In some cases, the nodule may be diagnosed as “indeterminate” for cancer, meaning cancer has not advanced enough to be a threat. In such cases, hormone therapy can be effective in stopping the growth of cancer cells. For more advanced cancers, chemotherapy or radiation may be used prior to surgery.
Once it has been decided that surgery is required, your St. Vincent’s surgeon will confer with the surgical team and a plan will be in effect to remove the nodule and follow up with chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or both. During surgery, the surgeon will remove the area of the thyroid that contains the cancerous nodule. This is where the exacting skills of only the most practiced surgeons allow for the safe and successful removal of tissue without injury to the nerve critical to voice quality, which is situated within the area of operation.
Follow-up care and consultation generally includes further diagnostic testing, and the multidisciplinary team maintains monitoring on each individual case at our tumor board meetings. The prognosis for a complete cure of most thyroid cancers, once surgically treated, is excellent. Still, it is important to emphasize that your progress toward an optimized outcome is of great concern of the dedicated St. Vincent’s team throughout the process.
St. Vincent's Medicial Center: Surgical expertise when you need it most.
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