Open Accessibility Menu

Your Thyroid: Small Yet Vital

Your Thyroid: Small Yet Vital

January is Thyroid Awareness Month and a local surgeon is urging people to educate themselves on this small yet important gland.

The thyroid is a gland that makes thyroid hormones and helps to regulate a person’s metabolism. Tom Connally, MD, is an endocrine surgeon with Norman Regional Health System. He treats a variety of thyroid diseases through minimally-invasive surgical procedures.

Dr. Connally wanted to raise awareness about the thyroid and clear up misconceptions about thyroid disease.

“I hope people understand that finding a thyroid nodule doesn’t mean they have thyroid cancer,” he said. “And if it is cancer, most people do very well with the treatment options available. People should always seek out expert advice and a doctor who frequently treats diseases of the thyroid.”

Diseases of the thyroid include thyroid nodules, goiters, thyroid cancer, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, and thyroiditis or inflammation of the thyroid gland.

Some of these conditions can be treated medically in the care of an endocrinologist. Other times surgical interventions may be necessary.

Thyroid Nodules

While most people’s minds immediately think cancer, thyroid nodules can signify a variety of things and are very common. According to the American Society of Endocrine Surgeons, up to 70% of women over the age of 60 years may have a thyroid nodule and up to 30-40% of men.

Nodules are a growth on the thyroid gland. They can be benign (non-cancerous). Sometimes the nodules need to just be monitored by a physician. Other times a nodule’s size may interfere with a person’s breathing or vocal chords so it would need to be surgically removed.

Oftentimes thyroid nodules do not cause any symptoms for patients. That’s why it’s so important to have your primary care physician check your neck during your annual wellness exam or if you see any concerning changes on your neck.

Thyroid Surgery

Your doctor may recommend thyroid surgery for several reasons including: a nodule that may be thyroid cancer, removal of a cancerous nodule, a nodule is interfering with breathing, swallowing or self-esteem, or a nodule is causing the thyroid gland to release excess thyroid hormones (such as Graves Disease).

It’s important for patients to find a surgeon they are comfortable with and who performs a high amount of surgeries on the thyroid, Dr. Connally said. The risks of complications during thyroid surgery are low with an experienced surgeon.

The American Thyroid Association lists the following questions that patients can ask their physician: Link:

  • Why do I need an operation?
  • Are there other forms of treatment?
  • How should I be evaluated prior to the operation?
  • How do I select a surgeon?
  • What are the risks of the operation?
  • How much of my thyroid gland needs to be removed?
  • Will I need to take a thyroid pill after my operation?
  • What can I expect once I decide to proceed with surgery?
  • What will be my physical restrictions following surgery?
  • Will I lead a normal life after surgery?

Dr. Connally encourages people to always ask their provider questions and to not be afraid to seek out a second opinion. The Norman Regional Endocrine Surgery Program uses a team approach working closely with endocrinologists, pathologists, radiologist and nuclear medicine staff to ensure patients receive the highest quality of care.

Dr. Connally is an active member of the American Association of Endocrine Surgeons. To contact his office or learn more about Dr. Connally, please call 405-329-4102 or click here.