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The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland at the front of the neck which produces thyroid hormone that the body uses to regulate its metabolism amongst other functions. Thyroid cancer includes a variety of tumours with different biological behaviour, with the vast majority (over 90%), occurring as well differentiated cancers such as papillary or follicular thyroid cancer, both of which usually have a good prognosis with treatment.

Thyroid cancer is more common in females than males (at a ratio of 3:1), usually after the age of 30, however it can affect any age group. According to Cancer research UK (CRUK) there were 3500 new cases of thyroid cancer in the United Kingdom in 2015.

The thyroid cancer team includes specialist surgeons, clinical nurse specialists, Speech and Language therapists, dietitians, medical and clinical oncologists, radiologists and pathologists.

Do I need tests to confirm diagnosis?

St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust offers a comprehensive diagnostic service including the full range of specialist endoscopic, radiological, and pathology services.  A combination of the following tests may be used to determine a diagnosis of thyroid cancer during, or following clinic visits:

  • Ultrasound scan and Fine needle aspiration biopsy (FNAB) of thyroid nodules
  • MRI Scan
  • Chest X-ray
  • PET-CT Scan
What treatment are available?

Thyroid cancer is usually treated with surgery to remove the whole thyroid gland plus or minus lymph nodes in the thyroid bed or neck. Radioactive iodine treatment may also be required after surgery. In selected low risk patients, with small tumours less than 2cm, surgery to remove one half of the thyroid gland may be all that is necessary. All thyroid cancer patients will need close follow-up and on-going surveillance for a number of years after treatment.

The thyroid surgery team at St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is one of the largest in the United Kingdom, and performs the full complement of surgical procedures for thyroid cancer, within the South West London area, including minimally invasive robotic surgery. St George’s Hospital is also the regional centre for all thoracic surgery, and the thyroid surgeons at St George’s Hospital work closely with thoracic surgeons on-site, should access to the chest be required for complex cases. We are a joint cancer centre with the Royal Marsden Hospital where the radiotherapy, radioactive iodine, and chemotherapy treatments are provided.

Support and Rehabilitation

Patients and their carers have access to:

  • Our specialist head and neck nursing staff on Florence Nightingale ward
  • A clinical nurse specialist for information and support throughout the cancer pathway.
  • Highly specialist speech and language therapists and Dieticians providing pre and post therapy, and on-going rehabilitation in the hospital and an outreach service closer to home.
  • Our physiotherapy team offer rehabilitation on the ward and onward referral on if further therapy is required.
  • Access to our Macmillan cancer psychological team (CaPS)
  • Access to Macmillan information and financial advice
  • Access to complementary therapy on the ward
  • Tracheostomy clinic

St George’s Hospital is a large teaching hospital with the full range of skills and support services needed to be able to carry out complex cancer surgery. These include intensive care (ITU), anaesthetic and pain management services, which are all available on site.