Thyroidectomy: Life without a thyroid

What is the thyroid?

The thyroid gland can be found at the front of the neck under the larynx. A functional thyroid produces hormones that control the body’s metabolism as well as the heart, digestive function, muscle control, brain development, mood, and bone maintenance. Having an issue with your thyroid can lead to an array of health problems.

What is a thyroidectomy?

A thyroidectomy is the removal of the thyroid gland. Performed through a small horizontal incision in the front of the neck, the procedure is minimally invasive.

Why would you need this surgery?

There are several reasons why your doctor might feel you need a thyroidectomy. The reasons are as follows:

  • Having an overactive thyroid.
  • Indeterminate or suspicious thyroid nodules.
  • Noncancerous enlargement of the thyroid.
  • Thyroid cancer.

Thyroid cancer is the most common reason for a thyroidectomy. Most cases of thyroid cancer result in the removal of a large portion, if not all, of the thyroid.

Life after a thyroidectomy

The degree to which your life would change after a thyroidectomy varies depending on how much of the thyroid was removed. Some people experience neck pain or a weak voice in the days or weeks after, but this improves over a time. Your doctors will recommend that you temporarily refrain from strenuous physical activity. If you had a partial thyroidectomy, the remaining portions should take over normal thyroid functions. For those who have had a complete removal, they will need to take a synthetic hormone replacement every day.

Whether you are doing research for yourself or for a loved one, look into our Thyroid Care Collaborative for support in your journey, and take a look at our other thyroid articles for more information about thyroid cancer. A large portion of the THANC Foundation’s efforts are committed to supporting and conducting research, as well as offering factual information about thyroid, head and neck cancer. This involves publishing current research, providing guidance for the cancer journey, as well as explaining medical concepts in a digestible format.

30 Stories in 30 Days

September is Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month. For the next 4 weeks, we will post stories written by thyroid cancer survivors, caregivers and friends for our 30 Stories in 30 Days campaign. We hope their perspectives and insight will help others along their journey.