Thyroid conditions aren’t too uncommon these days; many of them can be controlled by medication. But there are times when surgery is needed.
“When you put your finger in the bottom and move up just a bit, that’s your thyroid right there,” says Dr. Jacob Golderberger, general surgeon on the medical staff of Lee Memorial Health System, as he points to a model of the throat and neck.
It’s a small gland that plays a substantial role in your health. The thyroid is part of our body’s endocrine system and regulates metabolism.
“It is critical to keeping the body in a normal state in breaking down energy, so that if there’s no thyroid hormones around actually the person cannot survive,” says Dr. Golderberger.
When the thyroid isn’t doing its job, an endocrinologist can use medications to replace or regulate its hormone. Sometimes there are issues that require surgical intervention.
“There are two reasons why you want to see a surgeon when you have thyroid trouble. One, if you detect what we call a nodule or a growth and number two is the thyroid starts getting enlarged physically due to many processes and start occupying a lot of space in your neck causing you to have symptoms of compression or pressure or swallowing difficulties,” says Dr. Golderberger.
Thyroid growths are turning up more frequently with doctors picking them up during the course of other diagnostic tests. These growths don’t always need surgery, but they do call for investigation.
“What makes a surgical situation mandatory is when the area or the growth increases in size, it is suspicious in certain properties on the x-ray that you take. And what we’re looking for essentially is cancerous transformation,” says Dr. Golderberger.
Only one in ten cancer growths are malignant, those cases requiring removal of the thyroid, which is now done with minimal scarring.
“Essentially what it is, is an incision on the anterior neck, probably no more than an inch and a half to two inches,” says Dr. Golderberger.
Without a thyroid, patients can live a normal life with hormone replacements, which carry the load for the missing gland.