Thyroid Problems (cont.)
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Surgery for hyperthyroidism (thyroidectomy), large thyroid nodules, or nontoxic goiters may involve removal of much of the thyroid tissue, leaving some intact to continue to produce thyroid hormone. Risks of this procedure include damage to the nerves that control the vocal cords, damage to the parathyroid glands (resulting in low calcium levels), which lie just behind the thyroid gland, and bleeding. Hypothyroidism may also occur, but occurs less frequently than with radioactive iodine treatment. Persistent hyperthyroidism may also occur. If so, the entire thyroid gland is removed. In general, in the hands of an experienced surgeon, this is considered an effective and relatively safe procedure.
About 70% of patients who retain half of their thyroid gland will continue with normal thyroid function after the surgery. Those patients who have the entire thyroid removed must take thyroid hormone for the rest of their lives. Patients with thyroid cancer will need special treatments and scans with radioactive iodine. Most patients with thyroid cancer are managed by endocrinologists and not oncologists.
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