The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland that consists of two halves connected by a bridge that sits in front of the windpipe. The thyroid gland is located in the lower part of the neck. It produces thyroid hormones which regulate your body’s metabolism.
There are a number of important structures close by to the thyroid gland. These are particularly relevant during thyroid surgery. The nerves that come to the voice box (the recurrent laryngeal nerves and the superior laryngeal nerves) as well as the parathyroid glands are both in close proximity to the thyroid gland. Injury to the nerves to the voice box is rare however it can cause a change (huskiness) in the voice. The function of these nerves is best done by an ENT surgeon using a fibreoptic telescope through the nose to visualize the vocal cords.
There are four parathyroid glands (two on each side) and these lie in close proximity to the thyroid gland. They are responsible for regulating calcium levels in the body. They may become overactive (either one gland or multiple) and need removal if the calcium levels are elevated. During thyroid surgery they may be at risk of injury. In this case, they are underactive and up to 20% of patients having the whole thyroid gland removed will need to take calcium replacement in the short term. This number is much less (2-3%) who require long-term thyroid replacement.
A thyroid nodule is a lump within the thyroid gland that is different to the surrounding gland structure. These are very common. It is estimated that up to 60-70% of people have thyroid nodules. Thankfully very few of these are cancers (less than 5%).
The main reason to investigate a thyroid nodule is to determine whether or not it is a thyroid cancer.
Blood tests (thyroid hormone levels), ultrasound and biopsy are the key components of investigating a thyroid nodule.
There are four main types of thyroid cancer:
Reassuringly, for most patients, papillary thyroid cancer has an excellent prognosis (survival >95%). Surgery is the main component of treatment for thyroid cancer (see here for a discussion of thyroidectomy)
We are currently in unchartered waters with the COVID-19 pandemic. At ENTSA we are, as always, committed to the health and wellbeing of our staff and our patients. Ear, nose and throat examinations and surgery however are considered extremely high risk for virus transmission and so we are making changes in our practice.
The current recommendations from the Australian Society of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery (ASOHNS) are:
As a result of this, our practice is changing. We are still here to care for new and existing patients. We have established a Telehealth system to enable continuity of care for existing patients and a ‘non-contact’ option for new patients to access an initial assessment and commencement of treatment.
Please call us to discuss Telehealth options on: (08) 7200 2539
We will still see some patients in the office however this will be limited to protect the health of you and our staff.
If you attend, we ask you to comply with the following: