Hyperthyroidism, Graves’ Disease, & Thyroid Surgery
Most people who are diagnosed with hyperthyroidism or Graves’ Disease are usually recommended one of two treatment options by their endocrinologist. Antithyroid medication is one common option, and is used to manage the hyperthyroid symptoms. Another common treatment option is radioactive iodine treatment, which is used to obliterate the thyroid gland, and usually does eliminate the hyperthyroid symptoms, as it will frequently make the person hypothyroid for the rest of their life.
However, a small percentage of people with hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease are told to receive thyroid surgery. Fortunately this is usually a last resort, although there are some cases when people will receive a thyroidectomy unnecessarily. The goal of this article isn’t to advise anyone not to receive thyroid surgery if it has been recommended, but instead is to discuss some of the scenarios when surgery might be necessary, and other situations when you might want to avoid receiving surgery, or at the very least get a second opinion.
Two Situations When Thyroid Surgery Might Be Required
The following represent two situations when it might be necessary to receive thyroid surgery:
1) Thyroid Cancer. Certain types of thyroid cancer may require radioactive iodine or thyroid surgery. I’m obviously not in a position to tell anyone who has thyroid cancer and has surgery recommended not to receive it. If I had thyroid cancer I definitely would seek the opinion of an endocrinologist. And if surgery was recommended I probably would consider it, although I would get at least one other opinion. On the other hand, I would also consider holistic approaches as well. It really does depend on the situation, as with a malignant case of thyroid cancer I can understand choosing to receive radioactive iodine and/or thyroid surgery. On the other hand, not every case of thyroid cancer requires a thyroidectomy.
2) Thyroid Nodules. Thyroid nodules are another reason why some people require surgery. Some people will need to have a partial thyroidectomy, while others might need to have their thyroid gland completely removed. On the other hand, some people who have received surgery for thyroid nodules really didn’t need to get the surgery. If the nodule is benign, and isn’t causing any symptoms, then there really isn’t a good reason for having thyroid surgery. But some “knife happy” surgeons will recommend thyroid surgery for just about everyone with thyroid nodules. Once again, many medical doctors do take a more conservative approach, and I commend them for this. But different doctors will have different opinions, which is why it’s always wise to obtain a second opinion.
Complete vs. Partial Thyroidectomy
One issue I have is that some people receive a complete thyroidectomy when it seems like a partial thyroidectomy would be fine. This is especially true with thyroid nodules, as I’ve spoken with many people who had their entire thyroid gland removed due to a single benign thyroid nodule. I’m not a surgeon, and I’m not saying that in some cases this isn’t necessary. But just as is the case with many medical doctors recommending radioactive iodine for people who don’t really need it, I’m sure there are also medical doctors who recommend a complete thyroidectomy when it’s not truly necessary. The rationale behind this is that many people who receive a partial thyroidectomy will still become hypothyroid, so why not just remove the entire thyroid gland? My argument against this is that not everyone who receives a partial thyroidectomy will become hypothyroid, but 100% of those who have a complete thyroidectomy will become hypothyroid, so why not do a partial thyroidectomy whenever possible?
Risks Vs. Benefits
When considering thyroid surgery, you of course need to look at both the risks and benefits. One of the main risks is that someone who receives a complete thyroidectomy will become hypothyroid for the rest of their life, and would therefore need to take synthetic or natural thyroid hormone daily. With any type of thyroid surgery there is also the risk of doing damage to some of the surrounding structures, including the laryngeal nerve, as well as the parathyroid glands.
But of course sometimes the benefits outweigh these risks. For example, if someone has malignant thyroid cancer and multiple endocrinologists recommend a complete thyroidectomy, while there are risks of having the surgery, there of course is a much greater risk of not treating the thyroid cancer. While nobody wants to have their thyroid gland surgically removed, sometimes it is necessary. On the other hand, for someone who has a benign thyroid nodule who is asymptomatic, then in my opinion, the risks of having thyroid surgery is greater than the potential benefits.
The Role Of Natural Treatment Methods
What role does natural treatment methods have in preventing thyroid surgery in people who have hyperthyroidism or Graves’ Disease? Well, I’m not going to tell you that following a natural treatment protocol can cure thyroid cancer or will always shrink thyroid nodules. However, some people with thyroid cancer can benefit from natural treatment methods, and some people with thyroid nodules can have them reduced by following a natural treatment protocol. Once again, each person needs to be evaluated on an individual basis, as there are cases when someone shouldn’t follow a natural treatment protocol initially but instead should receive medical treatment, such as thyroid surgery.
So while I wish I could say that every person who has thyroid cancer or thyroid nodules should follow a natural treatment protocol and not receive thyroid surgery, this obviously isn’t the case with some people. However, you do need to keep an open mind, and at the same time use common sense, as if you do have thyroid cancer, or one or more thyroid nodules, you should speak with at least a couple of different endocrinologists, as well as a holistic doctor who focuses on endocrine disorders. While thyroid surgery is definitely necessary sometimes, there are some situations when it can be avoided.