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Surgical Services & Procedures

Thyroid & Parathyroid Surgery

The largest gland in the neck, the thyroid serves to regulate the body's metabolism. Parathyroid glands are typically located right next to the thyroid gland and control how much calcium is in the blood and in the bones. It is relatively common for nodules to form in the thyroid gland. Although any nodule should immediately be investigated by a board-certified endocrinologist, most nodules found in the thyroid gland are benign. Cancerous nodules, when diagnosed early, have a very high cure rate if properly treated. Cancer of the parathyroid glands is extremely rare. An Adenoma of a parathyroid gland is discussed below.

Our team of skilled and compassionate surgeons works with our extensive network of endocrinologists to investigate parathyroid and thyroid diseases. At our La Jolla practice, serving North San Diego County and throughout Southern California, if a cancer diagnosis is made, we work quickly and effectively to determine an optimal treatment plan for you.

Thyroid Cancer

Surgical Associates of La Jolla provides exceptional thyroid cancer treatment for patients in La Jolla and other North San Diego County communities. Our team of skilled surgeons provides aggressive treatment to remove and eradicate the cancer while helping patients become fully informed about the symptoms, risk factors, and treatment options for this disease.


The first symptom of thyroid cancer is often the growth of nodules, or lumps of tissue, in the thyroid. If there are nodules, the thyroid may become enlarged and eventually cause pain in the neck and changes in the voice. Although nodules are common and are usually benign, they can also be a symptom of thyroid cancer and should be monitored. Surgical Associates of La Jolla provides quick, relatively painless diagnostic exams to determine whether nodules are pre-cancerous.

Risk Factors

While anyone can develop nodules in the thyroid, the growths are more common in people who had radiation therapy in childhood. Individuals with a family history of thyroid problems are also more likely to develop thyroid cancer.



An ultrasound examination may be performed to detect nodules, their size, and whether they are solid or filled with fluid. A fine-needle biopsy may be performed to collect cells from the nodule(s) to determine whether they are cancerous.

Treatment - Thyroid Removal

It may be necessary to remove all or part of the thyroid if a patient is diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Our San Diego-based team is known in La Jolla, North County, and throughout the region for providing top-notch care for patients needing a thyroidectomy. To begin the procedure, general anesthesia is administered. Next, the surgeon makes a small incision in the neck along a crease in the skin so that the scar is less noticeable. He then removes part of the thyroid or the entire gland, depending on how much cancerous tissue there is. When the surgery is complete, he sutures the incision closed.


After a thyroidectomy, the incision usually heals in a week or so, and most patients are able to return to their regular activities a few weeks after the procedure. Radiation therapy may be necessary to treat the surrounding tissue. Most patients are also prescribed thyroid hormone pills to maintain normal thyroid function. Our team works closely with patients in the days, weeks, and months after surgery to monitor their recovery and help if any complications arise.

Parathyroid Disease

There are four parathyroid glands, which are located on the underside of the thyroid. These glands produce parathyroid hormone (PTH), which regulates the amount of calcium in the blood. The most common parathyroid problem is hyperparathyroidism, a condition in which the gland produces too much PTH. This is often the result of a parathyroid adenoma, a benign condition. Cancerous growths in the parathyroid glands are extremely rare. Surgical Associates of La Jolla provides exceptional treatment for parathyroid disease including adenomas; patients in La Jolla and throughout the North San Diego County area can expect exceptional, compassionate care from our team.


When a parathyroid gland develops into an adenoma, it grows at an abnormal rate. In turn, this results in production of an abnormal amount of PTH. Therefore, one of the main symptoms of parathyroid cancer is a result of massive amount of PTH in the blood - well beyond even "excessive" levels. Extremely high levels of calcium in the blood are the result, leading to possible kidney stones, gallstones, constipation, depression and osteoporosis.

Risk factors

Parathyroid disease can be usually associated with an inherited defect, so people with a family history of the disease are more at risk. Most cases are random events found as the result of a routine blood test showing a higher than normal calcium level. Contact our La Jolla office if you believe you are at risk for this disease, and we can schedule a diagnostic exam.


Parathyroid adenoma is a slowly developing disease that responds well to treatment, especially if it is caught early on. Surgery is the most common and effective treatment. Usually the parathyroid gland containing the adenoma is removed through a small incision in the neck, leaving the other healthy glands in place.