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About thyroid cancer
Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of your neck. Using the essential nutrient iodine, your thyroid produces hormones that regulate every aspect of your metabolism - from your heart rate to how quickly you burn calories.
Worldwide, thyroid cancer affects 123,000 people a year and this number is expected to rise.1,2 Women are affected by this disease more often than men. Thyroid cancers are often diagnosed after nodules are found by the patient or during a routine exam. It is usually diagnosed between ages of 30 and 50.3 Fortunately, when caught early, most common thyroid cancers respond well to treatment.3
There are several types of thyroid cancer. Papillary carcinoma and follicular carcinoma are the most common. Only a small fraction (less than 5%) of thyroid nodules are cancerous.3 Generally speaking, cancer begins in cells - the body's basic unit of life. Normally, healthy cells grow and divide to form new cells that perform their functions before eventually dying. Sometimes, cells do not die but continue to divide and create new cells the body does not need. These extra cells form a mass of tissue called a growth or tumor. There are two types of tumors; benign tumors are not cancer and do not spread, but malignant tumors are cancer. They grow and invade normal structures near the tumor and can spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body.
Your doctor will discuss thyroid cancer treatment options with you in detail. Generally, treatments include:1
- Radioactive iodine treatment
- Thyroid hormone therapy
- External beam radiation
Treatment plans often use two or more of the above options, but surgery is the main treatment for all thyroid cancers.1 Surgeons perform a thyroidectomy - the removal of all or part of the thyroid, as well as the cancer. Since most thyroid cancers are often located in the left and right sides of the thyroid, most surgeons remove most of the thyroid gland.2
This operation is called a subtotal or near-total thyroidectomy. For cancers smaller than 1 cm. (½ inch) that show no signs of spreading, surgeons often perform a lobectomy – removal of only the affected side of the thyroid. When cancer has spread outside of the thyroid, surgery is always used to remove as much cancer as possible. Also, because it may spread to nearby lymph nodes, they may also need to be removed. The two traditional surgical options for thyroid cancer patients are either open or endoscopic surgery.
Open surgery is considered effective but requires surgeons to make a 6-8 cm (2-3 inch) incision in the neck which leaves patients with a long and visible scar.3,4 Also, their view into deeper structures of the neck containing delicate nerves is limited.5
Endoscopic or laparoscopic thyroidectomy is minimally invasive and also considered effective for selected patients, but it can also leave visible scaring; the incision is usually about 2.5 cms (1 inch).3,4
One of the complications of these procedures is voice change. Patients are advised to select a surgeon who protects the voice by using an electronic nerve monitoring device during surgery.6 Also, following surgery most patients become hypothyroid, which requires treatment with a hormone supplement.7
da Vinci® Thyroidectomy
If your doctor recommends surgery to treat thyroid cancer, you may be a candidate for da Vinci Surgery. Using this technology, the disfiguring and traumatic aspects of traditional open surgery are avoided. da Vinci Surgery offers thyroid cancer patients numerous potential benefits over traditional open surgery, including:
- Superior cosmetic outcomes8,9
- No neck scars8,9
- Avoids laryngeal nerve injury8
If you are a candidate for thyroidectomy, talk to a Community surgeon who performs da Vinci Thyroidectomy.
- "Global cancer rates could increase by 50% to 15 million by 2020", World Health Organization, www.who.int
- "Thyroid Cancer", American Cancer Society. www.cancer.org
- Ruggieri M, Straniero A, Mascaro A, et al. The minimally invasive open video-assisted approach in surgical thyroid diseases. BMC Surg. 2005 Published online 2005 April 27. doi: 10.1186/1471-2482-5-9.
- Brunaud L et al. Incision Length for Standard Thyroidectomy and Parathyroidectomy When Is It Minimally Invasive? Arch Surg. 2003;138:1140-1143.
- Robotic Thyroidectomy. A new option for thyroid surgery that doesn’t leave a neck scar. www.EndocrineWeb.com.
- Thyroid Disease. www.About.com.
- "Thyroid Surgery", American Thyroid Association. www.thyroid.org
- Sang-Wook K et al. Robot-assisted endoscopic surgery for thyroid cancer: experience with the first 100 patients. Accepted: 12 January 2009 Springer Science Business Media. 9. The Universe of Women’s Health. www.ObGyn.net.
While clinical studies support the effectiveness of the da Vinci® System when used in minimally invasive surgery, individual results may vary. Surgery with the da Vinci Surgical System may not be appropriate for every individual. Always ask your doctor about all treatment options, as well as their risks and benefits.
For additional information on minimally invasive surgery with the da Vinci®Surgical System visit www.davincisurgery.com.