What happens before surgery?

You are likely to visit a pre-assessment clinic before your operation. At the clinic, you will have some tests to check your general health. These may include:

  • blood tests
  • a chest x-ray
  • a recording of your heart (ECG).

You will see a member of the surgical team and, in some hospitals, a specialist nurse. They will talk to you about your operation. This is a good chance to ask questions and talk about any concerns you have.

You will see the doctor who gives you your anaesthetic (the anaesthetist) either at a clinic or when you are admitted to hospital.

Before and after surgery, a doctor will check your vocal cords. This is because the nerves that control your vocal cords are close to the thyroid gland. The doctor may use a local anaesthetic spray to numb your nose and throat. Then they will pass a thin, flexible tube with a small camera at the end (nasendoscope) through your nose to look at how your vocal cords move. This can be a little uncomfortable, but it should not be painful.

You may be asked to avoid eating or drinking for a few hours after the test, until the local anaesthetic wears off.

If you smoke, it is important to try to give up or cut down before your operation. This will help reduce your risk of problems such as a chest infection. It will also help your wound heal after the operation. Your GP can give you advice.

If you think you might need help when you go home after your operation, let the nurses know at the pre-assessment clinic. They can then help you make arrangements in plenty of time.

You will usually be admitted to hospital the day before or on the morning of your operation. The nurses will give you elastic stockings (TED stockings) to wear during and after the operation. These help prevent blood clots forming in your legs.

Back to Surgery

Surgery for thyroid cancer

Surgery for thyroid cancer removes part or all of the thyroid gland. You may have some lymph nodes removed from your neck.

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

Surgery may cause tiredness, changes to your neck, and changes to the hormone and calcium levels in your blood.

Thyroid replacement therapy

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

Follow-up care after surgery

You will have follow-up appointments after your surgery to check on your recovery and talk about any concerns.