Many thyroid problems can be treated without surgery. The treatment chosen by your doctor will depend on your condition. The most common medical treatments and surgeries are described here.


An overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) can be treated with drugs that slow down production of thyroid hormones. Radioactive iodine or anti-thyroid drugs are used to reduce thyroid hormone production. But both of these treatments can result in an underactive thyroid, which then also requires treatment.

An underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) is treated by replacing the hormone that is not being produced in enough quantities. The drugs used for this may also be used to treat thyroid cancer or other thyroid conditions.


In certain cases, an operation to remove some or all of your thyroid gland may be needed. For example:

  • If you have a large goiter or nodule (growth on the thyroid) that is pressing on your windpipe or causing other symptoms because of its size
  • If you are not able to tolerate the thyroid medications (i.e., you have severe side effects)
  • If you are not able/do not want to have radioiodine therapy
  • If you have thyroid nodules that are cancerous, if cancer cannot be ruled out, or if the nodule continues to grow despite medical therapy

There are several different types of thyroid surgery, such as:

  • Biopsy or Lumpectomy: Only a small part of the thyroid is removed.
  • Lobectomy: Half of the thyroid gland is removed.
  • Sub-total Thyroidectomy: A small amount of thyroid tissue on both sides is left after surgery.
  • Near-total Thyroidectomy: About a gram of thyroid tissue is left on one side after surgery.
  • Total Thyroidectomy: All of the thyroid tissue is removed.

Together, you and your doctor will decide if thyroid surgery is right for you. If it is, you’ll have either traditional thyroid surgery or minimally invasive thyroid surgery.


A minimally invasive approach leaves only a tiny scar that may be less visible. The surgery may be done under local or general anesthetic. Depending on the extent of the surgery, you may or may not require an overnight stay in the hospital.


In traditional open thyroid surgery, a 2 to 8 cm incision is made in the skin of the lower part of the neck. The surgery is done under a general anesthetic. You will need to stay in the hospital for one or two days.

Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.