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Surgery is the main component of treatment for most patients with papillary thyroid cancer, which accounts for about 80 percent of all thyroid cancer cases. A single surgery is often all that is necessary to eliminate the cancer, particularly when it is diagnosed in an early stage. 

Types of surgical treatment

There are two main forms of surgery for papillary thyroid cancer:

  • Lobectomy – About one half of the thyroid is removed. This procedure may be recommended if the cancer is confined to the thyroid and the tumor (nodule) is less than 4 centimeters across. A lobectomy may also be performed to confirm a diagnosis of thyroid cancer.
  • Total thyroidectomy – The entire thyroid is removed. This surgery may be appropriate if the tumor is larger than 4 centimeters across or the cancer has spread beyond the thyroid.

The majority of patients diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer receive a total thyroidectomy. The lymph nodes located near the thyroid may also be removed as a preventive measure or if the cancer has spread. Thyroid cancer surgery of any kind is a complex operation, but advancements in treatment have substantially improved the outcomes and reduced the invasiveness of surgery.

Depending on a patient’s tumor characteristics, treatment may also involve nonsurgical therapies like radiation iodine (RAI) therapy and external beam radiation to target cancer that has spread beyond the thyroid.

Papillary thyroid cancer surgery at Moffitt Cancer Center

The experience and expertise of the surgeon are critical when it comes to a successful papillary thyroid cancer surgery. At Moffitt Cancer Center, our Thyroid Clinic includes skilled head and neck surgeons who focus exclusively on thyroid disorders and leverage the latest techniques to minimize risk and achieve the best possible outcomes. Our surgeons educate their patients to provide vital information about all their surgical treatment options and help ensure they can make confident decisions regarding their health. 

If you would like to speak with a Moffitt oncologist about papillary thyroid cancer surgery and possible treatment options, complete a new patient registration form online or call 1-888-663-3488. We welcome patients with or without referrals.