Are there any risks of having thyroid surgery?

Thyroid surgery is generally safe in experienced hands but occasionally has significant and sometimes permanent complications including a weak voice due to coming into contact with the nerves controlling the voice box, or low calcium due to trauma to the parathyroid glands. We therefore strongly recommend that your child’s surgery is carried out by an excellent endocrine or head-and-neck surgeon who regularly does thyroid and parathyroid surgery, preferably working as part of a Multi-Disciplinary Team. Don’t hesitate to check your surgeon’s experience, such as the number of thyroid operations they do each year and their rate of complications, before you decide. Your surgeon should explain the possible complications to you beforehand. Before the operation you will be asked to sign an informed consent form.

For how long does my child need to have regular check-ups?

Your child will need to have regular check-ups for life and when the time is right will be able to take responsibility for arranging their own check-ups at the right time.

Can thyroid cancer return after it has been treated?

The outlook for thyroid cancer is very favourable. There are people alive today who have survived more than 50 years since being diagnosed and they were treated at a time when the understanding of thyroid cancer was far less advanced than it is now.

My child is on a high dose of levothyroxine – why?

The amount of levothyroxine prescribed will usually be higher than that typically used to treat hypothyroidism in order to keep the Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) level low. There is evidence that a high TSH can cause any remaining thyroid cells to grow and develop thyroid cancer. If your GP wants to alter your child’s dose, always speak to the specialist first.

My child suffers from very low moods. What can I do about it?

This is understandable and your GP will be able to put you in touch with the help that is available to support you and your child.

Are there any long-term effects of treatment?

There is ongoing research into late effects of cancer treatment, including thyroid cancer.

One concern is that taking a high dose of levothyroxine over a long period could cause or aggravate existing heart problems or osteoporosis in later life. New research has shown that it may be safe for patients to take slightly higher doses of levothyroxine than previously recommended. More research is needed however and it is important to have regular blood tests to check that the correct amount is prescribed.

Another concern is whether thyroid cancer patients face higher risks of secondary cancers. The evidence for this however is weak and there may be other factors involved.

People who were treated when they were young have gone on to lead healthy and fulfilling lives and to have healthy children. They can be expected to have a normal life-span.