Surgery for thyroid cancer

Surgery is one of the main treatments for thyroid cancer. The type of operation you have will depend on the size of your cancer and your general health.

Surgery to remove the thyroid gland

Hemithyroidectomy or lobectomy

In this operation the surgeon removes half of the thyroid gland. Some people will have this operation to diagnose thyroid cancer.

Your doctor may suggest you have a further operation to remove the whole thyroid gland.

Total thyroidectomy

In this operation the surgeon removes the whole thyroid gland.

Surgery to the lymph nodes

Your surgeon may remove the lymph nodes in the front, or front and side of your neck. This is done to:

  • remove cancerous lymph nodes 
  • reduce the risk of the cancer coming back.

Neck tissue

If the cancer has begun to spread outside the thyroid gland into the surrounding tissue, the surgeon may need to remove some of the tissue in the area around the thyroid gland. Your specialist team will provide you with further information if you need this surgery.

Back to Surgery explained

Who might I meet?

A team of specialists will plan your surgery. This will include a surgeon who specialises in your type of cancer.

Side effects of surgery

After thyroid surgery you may be tired. Surgery may also cause changes to your neck, voice and calcium and hormone levels in your blood.

Thyroid hormones

If you have part, or all, of your thyroid gland removed you may need to take thyroid hormone replacement tablets.