Complications of Thyroid Cancer Surgery

Updated at: Oct 31, 2012
Complications of Thyroid Cancer Surgery

Complications of Thyroid Cancer Surgery: Surgical procedure to remove the cancerous cells present in the thyroid gland can  damage  the surrounding sites, thus leading to certain health complications.

Gunjan Rastogi
CancerWritten by: Gunjan RastogiPublished at: Oct 29, 2012

Complications of Thyroid Cancer Surgery

Surgical resection is the most referred treatment for patients  suffering from thyroid cancer, mostly due to its high survival rates and significantly lesser chances of recurrence. But, the surgical procedure for thyroid cancer  can be a potential  cause of some permanent complications that are discussed below.


[Read: Treatment Options for Thyroid Cancer]


Laryngeal Nerve Damage

This is a rare complication of thyroid cancer surgery accounting for one case in every 250 surgeries. Laryngeal nerves or Galen's nerves are responsible for controlling our voice.  The damage to these nerves will show  the below mentioned symptoms:
•    hoarseness in the voice
•    decreased vocal range
•    changes in the voice
•    difficulty in projecting the voice.

All these changes are reversible and usually, disappear within a few weeks. To reduce the risk of laryngeal nerve damage, the oncologists have started using nerve monitors during the thyroid cancer surgeries.


Vocal Cord Paralysis

This is the most severe damage which may be caused by a thyroid cancer surgery..The chances of treating the vocal cord paralysis depend on the extent to which the vocal nerves have been  damaged by the surgery. Vocal cord dysfunction may affect your ability to speak and breathe. To identify vocal cord paralysis, it is important to be aware of its signs and symptoms. Some of its well known symptoms are:
•    hoarse voice (initial symptom)
•    difficulty in inhaling
•    difficulty in swallowing food or gulping down liquids
•    feeling of choked throat
•    loss of voice
•    taking frequent intervals to catch your breath while speaking
•    persistent coughing
•    inability to speak in a loud tone.


Hypoparathyroidism and Hypocalcaemia

If the parathyroid glands are damaged during the thyroid cancer surgery, it may lead to hypocalcaemia or hypoparathyroidism. The trauma caused to the gland can be permanent or temporary.

The parathyroid gland produces parathyroid hormone, which is responsible for controlling your body’s calcium and phosphorus levels. The tumbled glands lead to a reduced production of the parathyroid hormone in the blood causing hypoparathyroidism. Also, the diminished concentration of the parathyroid hormone may lead to a significantly low level of calcium in the body and therefore, triggering a condition called hypocalcaemia.

Some thyroid cancer patients undergoing surgery are at an increased risk of hypoparathyroidism if they have undergone:
•    central neck dissection for thyroid cancer in which the lymph nodes and lymph tissues around the thyroid are removed.
•    a second thyroid surgery
•    surgery to treat hyperthyroidism or Graves' disease
•    multi-nodular goitre surgery
•    complete removal of all parts of the thyroid gland (thyroidectomy) rather than a lobectomy.


If you experience the below mentioned symptoms of hypoparathyroidism in the first week of surgery, contact your doctor at the earliest.
•    depression
•    anxiety
•    headaches
•    muscle  cramps
•    spasms
•    sensation of tingling around your lips, hands and feet
•    persistent numbness in any of the body part.


[Read: Symptoms of Hypoparathyroidism]


The hypocalcaemia after thyroid cancer surgery usually disappears within seven to ten days and can be  treated by calcium supplements.


The complications of thyroid cancer surgery mostly affect your voice and therefore, any change in your voice within the immediate days after surgery must be reported to your doctor.


Read more articles on Thyroid Cancer.




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