Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Which thyroid nodules need to be removed?

A. The reasons for removing a nodule (lump) from the thyroid include - it causes symptoms including difficulty swallowing, it is cosmetically concerning, it is overactive, it is cancer.  The aim of investigation of a thyroid nodule is to exclude these reasons and so to, if possible, avoid needing surgery.

Q. Where is a thyroid nodule? 

A. Many people think a thyroid nodule is not part of the thyroid.  In fact, the nodule is within the thyroid.  Its removal usually requires the removal of half (hemithyroidectomy) or the whole thyroid gland (total thyroidectomy).  

Q. Will I put on weight after having thyroid surgery? 

A. Not because of your surgery. Weight loss or gain is as a result of an imbalance between energy intake and expenditure.  Ideally, thyroid hormone levels following surgery can be adjusted by administration of thyroid hormone to be within the normal range.  In these circumstances, surgery or being on thyroxine replacement are not responsible for weight gain or loss.

Q. If I have a neck dissection to remove lymph nodes, will I be more prone to infections like colds/flu?  

A. The lymph nodes removed in neck dissection are in the order of 25% of the lymph nodes of the entire head and neck, which are only a fraction of the nodes in the entire body.  Whilst it is possible that recovery from surgery and other treatment may render the patient less able to avoid some infections, this is more to do with general conditioning than the effect of lymph node removal.

Q. If I have hyperparathyroidism, isn’t the higher than normal calcium in my blood actually good for my bones? 

A. No.  The high level of calcium in the blood of a person with hyperparathyroidism is largely because the bones are being stripped of calcium.  In the presence of high levels of parathyroid hormone (hyperparathyroidism), it is not possible for calcium to be laid done to strengthen bones.

Q. Why does the wound which was healing well on my neck look darker as time goes by? 

A. It is fairly normal for even a perfectly healing wound on the neck to become darker over the first 6 months of healing before eventually fading.  It is true however that it is most unusual for the scar to disappear, and that someone who has had surgery will always be able to see the scar.  

Q. Why does a small lump in the parotid gland need such a sizeable incision to be removed safely? 

A. As discussed on the parotid surgery page, the key to parotid surgery is the identification and preservation of the facial nerve.  This nerve exists the base of skull through the stylomastoid foramen, a small hole which is about 4cm deep to the skin of the earlobe.  Because the nerve is deep at this point, and that this is the safest place to identify the nerve, the incision needs to be large enough to afford a good view.  Once the nerve is found, the branches of the nerve need to be traced through the gland past the tumour to allow for the safe removal of the tumour.

Q. If Dr Ashford is a Head & Neck Surgeon, how come he did my son's appendicectomy/ my grandmother's cholecystectomy?

A. Dr Ashford is a General Surgeon.  Most General Surgeons contirbute to the local community by taking part in an on-call roster at their local hospital to provide Emergency and Trauma Surgery cover.  So, when Dr Ashford is on-call at either Wollongong, or Liverpool Hospitals, he is required to care for those people who present to the Emergency Department with general surgical problems.  This workload varies considerably, but can include appendicitis, cholecystitis, bowel obstruction and traumatic injuries to name just a few. Our aim is to provide excellent surgical care to any patients whose care we are entrusted.