Your thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ that sits at the base of your neck. The hormones your thyroid gland produces influence almost all of the metabolic processes in your body. Thyroid disorders can range from small, harmless nodules that require no treatment to thyroid cancer, which often requires surgery.
Penn Medicine's thyroid surgeons perform a high volume of each type of thyroid surgery — thyroidectomy and thyroid lobectomy — which has been shown to help ensure better outcomes for complex surgical procedures.
Learn more about each type of thyroid surgery and how you and your surgeon will determine which is right for you
We also work in conjunction with international experts in the specialties required for the management of surgically treated thyroid conditions, including pathology, cytology, radiology, endocrinology, nuclear medicine, medical oncology and genetic counseling.
Thyroid surgery might be an option for you if you have any of the following:
Hyperthyroidism, also known as overactive thyroid, is a condition in which your thyroid gland produces too much of the hormone thyroxine. Hyperthyroidism can accelerate your body's metabolism, causing sudden weight loss, a rapid or irregular heartbeat, nervousness, irritability and sweating.
Hyperthyroidism can be caused by many different factors, including:
- Graves' disease: An autoimmune disorder that leads to an overactive thyroid gland.
- Toxic adenomas: Nodules that secrete thyroid hormones. If they form on your thyroid gland, they can create a chemical imbalance in your body. If you have a goiter, it may contain several toxic adenomas.
- Subacute thyroiditis: A rare but temporary condition that often occurs a few weeks after a viral infection such as the flu. Subacute thyroiditis causes your thyroid gland to become inflamed and discharge excess hormones. The condition generally lasts a few weeks.
- Pituitary gland malfunctions or cancerous growths in the thyroid gland.
Hyperthyroidism can often be treated with medications, but sometimes surgery to remove part of all of your thyroid might be appropriate.
Goiter is an abnormal, noncancerous enlargement of your thyroid gland. While they are often painless, goiters may grow large enough to cause difficulty breathing and swallowing. In those cases, surgery may be necessary.
Thyroid cancer begins when thyroid cells change and grow out of control, forming a mass.
The two types of cells found in the thyroid gland are follicular cells and C cells. Follicular cells produce thyroid hormone, which is responsible for your body's metabolism and helps control your heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and weight. C cells make calcitonin, a hormone that helps regulate calcium in your body.
There are four main types of thyroid cancer:
- Papillary thyroid cancer
- Follicular thyroid cancer
- Medullary thyroid cancer
- Anaplastic thyroid cancer
Learn more about the types of thyroid cancer and how we diagnose and treat them at Penn Medicine
Thyroid nodules are small, solid or fluid-filled lumps that form within the thyroid gland. More than 90 percent of thyroid nodules are not serious and do not cause any symptoms.
Diagnostic tests such as biopsies are needed to determine if a nodule is cancerous. Thyroid cancer accounts for only a very small percentage of thyroid nodules.