Thyroid cancer is rare, and occurs in around 4 per 100,000 people each year in the UK. In a large portion of people with thyroid cancer appropriate treatment will cure this disease.

Assessment of thyroid nodules (lumps) aims to detect those that are due to cancer with a combination of careful examination, ultrasound scans and needle biopsies.

Several different types of thyroid cancer occur, and for the vast majority an operation to remove the thyroid gland is the most important initial treatment. Usually all of the thyroid gland is removed, but if the scans and/or needle biopsy are suggestive of cancer, but not absolutely certain, then only the side of the thyroid gland containing the lump is removed. This then allows a pathologist to examine it under the microscope to be certain that cancer is present. The other half of the thyroid gland will then usually be removed either during the same operation, or shortly afterwards as a second operation.

The section on thyroid surgery covers specific details of what an operation on the thyroid involves, what you can expect in terms of length of stay in hospital and recovery afterwards.

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