This guide will help you get ready for your thyroid surgery at Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK). It will also help you understand what to expect during your recovery.
Use this guide as a reference in the days leading up to your surgery. Bring it with you every time you come to MSK, including the day of your surgery. You and your healthcare team will refer to it throughout your care.
About Your Surgery
About your thyroid gland
Your thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped gland in the lower part of the front of your neck (see Figure 1). It makes hormones that control the way your body turns oxygen and calories into energy. Your thyroid is made up of a left lobe and a right lobe. The area where the lobes join is called the isthmus.
Your parathyroid glands are 4 small glands located behind your thyroid. They make a hormone that helps control the level of calcium in your blood.
Lymph nodes are small oval or round structures found throughout your body. They’re part of your immune system and make and store cells that fight infection. They also filter bacteria, viruses, cancer cells, and other waste products out of your lymphatic fluid.
Removing your thyroid gland
Thyroid surgery is done through an incision (surgical cut) in the lower part of the front of your neck. It takes about 2 to 3 hours.
During your surgery, your surgeon will examine your whole thyroid gland and remove the parts that have cancer. They’ll also check the lymph nodes next to your thyroid gland and remove any that have or might have cancer cells.
- If half (1 lobe) of your thyroid is removed, it’s called a lobectomy or hemi-thyroidectomy.
- If your whole thyroid is removed, it’s called a total thyroidectomy.
Your surgeon will talk with you before your surgery so you know what to expect.
There are 2 nerves very close to your thyroid gland that help your larynx (voice box) work. These nerves are called the recurrent laryngeal nerve and the superior laryngeal nerve. They may be affected during your thyroid surgery.
- Your recurrent laryngeal nerve goes behind your thyroid to your voice box. If your tumor is close to this nerve or this nerve is injured during your surgery, your vocal cords (2 bands of tissue in your voice box that help you speak) could be damaged. This can make your voice hoarse. Voice hoarseness is common after thyroid surgery and usually goes away with time.
- Your superior laryngeal nerve helps you raise the volume and pitch of your voice. If this nerve gets weak or injured, the pitch and tone of your voice can be affected. This may make it hard for you to raise your voice or sing.
Before your thyroid surgery, your healthcare provider will check how your vocal cords are working. If they’re working normally but the tumor is large or close to your recurrent or superior laryngeal nerve, your risk of nerve injury during surgery is higher. While this is rare, it may lead to problems with your vocal cords after surgery.
If you have voice changes after surgery that don’t get better, you may need to have a procedure to check your throat. There are different ways to improve your voice if your nerves are injured, including surgery or an injection (shot) into your vocal cord. You may also need to see a laryngologist (voice doctor). Your healthcare provider will talk with you about these options.
Rarely, a nerve injury can cause trouble breathing. If this happens, call your healthcare provider so they can help. If you can’t reach them right away, go to the closest emergency room.
Hypocalcemia (low blood calcium)
After your surgery, you may have temporary parathyroid dysfunction. This means your parathyroid glands may not make enough hormone to hold the right level of calcium in your blood. While this is temporary, it can cause hypocalcemia. Hypocalcemia is when you don’t have enough calcium in your blood.
Hypocalcemia can cause numbness and tingling in your hands, feet, and around your mouth. Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these symptoms. It can be dangerous if your blood calcium levels are too low.
Your healthcare providers will check your blood calcium level after your surgery. If you have hypocalcemia, they’ll give you medications to manage it. Read the sections “Managing hypocalcemia” and “Taking calcium supplements” for more information.
Getting Ready for Your Surgery
This section will help you get ready for your surgery. Read it when your surgery is scheduled. Refer to it as your surgery gets closer. It has important information about what to do to get ready.
As you read through this section, write down questions to ask your healthcare provider.
Getting ready for surgery
You and your care team will work together to get ready for your surgery. Help us keep you safe by telling us if any of these things apply to you, even if you’re not sure.
I take a anticoagulant (blood thinner), such as:
These are examples of medications. There are others.
Be sure your healthcare provider knows all the medications you’re taking.
- Warfarin (Jantoven®, Coumadin®)
- Clopidogrel (Plavix®)
- Enoxaparin (Lovenox®)
- Dabigatran (Pradaxa®)
- Apixaban (Eliquis®)
- Rivaroxaban (Xarelto®)
I take an SGLT2 inhibitor, such as:
- Canagliflozin (Invokana®)
- Dapagliflozin (Farxiga®)
- Empagliflozin (Jardiance®)
- Ertugliflozin (Steglatro®)
- I take prescription medications (medications my healthcare provider prescribes), including patches and creams.
- I take over-the-counter medications (medications I buy without a prescription), including patches and creams.
- I take dietary supplements, such as herbs, vitamins, minerals, or natural or home remedies.
- I have a pacemaker, automatic implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (AICD), or other heart device.
- I have sleep apnea.
- I have had a problem with anesthesia (medication to make me sleep during surgery) in the past.
- I’m allergic to certain medication(s) or materials, including latex.
- I’m not willing to receive a blood transfusion.
- I drink alcohol.
- I smoke or use an electronic smoking device, such as a vape pen or e-cigarette.
- I use recreational drugs, such as marijuana.
About drinking alcohol
It’s important to talk with your healthcare providers about how much alcohol you drink. This will help us plan your care.
If you drink alcohol regularly, you may be at risk for problems during and after your surgery. These include bleeding, infections, heart problems, and a longer hospital stay.
If you drink alcohol regularly and stop suddenly, it can cause seizures, delirium, and death. If we know you’re at risk for these problems, we can prescribe medications to help prevent them.
Here are things you can do before your surgery to keep from having problems.
- Be honest with your healthcare providers about how much alcohol you drink.
Try to stop drinking alcohol once your surgery is planned. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you:
- Get a headache.
- Feel nauseous (like you’re going to throw up).
- Feel more anxious (nervous or worried) than usual.
- Cannot sleep.
- Tell your healthcare provider if you cannot stop drinking.
- Ask your healthcare provider questions about drinking and surgery. All your medical information will be kept private, as always.
If you smoke, you can have breathing problems when you have surgery. Stopping for even a few days before your surgery can help.
About sleep apnea
Sleep apnea is a common breathing problem. If you have sleep apnea, you stop breathing for short lengths of time while you’re asleep. The most common type is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). With OSA, your airway becomes fully blocked during sleep.
OSA can cause serious problems during and after surgery. Tell us if you have or think you might have sleep apnea. If you use a breathing device, such as a CPAP machine, bring it on the day of your surgery.
MyMSK (my.mskcc.org) is your MSK patient portal. You can use it to send and read messages from your care team, view your test results, see your appointment dates and times, and more. You can also invite your caregiver to make their own account so they can see information about your care.
Watch How to Enroll in MyMSK: Memorial Sloan Kettering's Patient Portal to learn more. You can also contact the MyMSK Help Desk by emailing [email protected] or calling 800-248-0593.
Within 30 days of your surgery
Presurgical Testing (PST)
You’ll have a PST appointment before your surgery. You’ll get a reminder from your surgeon’s office with the appointment date, time, and location.
You can eat and take your usual medications the day of your PST appointment.
It’s helpful to bring these things to your appointment:
- A list of all the medications you’re taking, including prescription and over-the-counter medications, patches, and creams.
- Results of any tests done outside of MSK, such as a cardiac stress test, echocardiogram, or carotid doppler study.
- The names and telephone numbers of your healthcare providers.
You’ll meet with a nurse practitioner (NP) during your PST appointment. They work closely with anesthesiology staff (specialized healthcare providers who will give you anesthesia during your surgery). Your NP will review your medical and surgical history with you. You may have tests to plan your care, such as:
- An electrocardiogram (EKG) to check your heart rhythm.
- A chest X-ray.
- Blood tests.
Your NP may recommend you see other healthcare providers. They’ll also talk with you about which medications to take the morning of your surgery.
Identify your caregiver
Your caregiver plays an important role in your care. Before your surgery, you and your caregiver will learn about your surgery from your healthcare providers. After your surgery, your caregiver will take you home when you’re discharged. They’ll also help you care for yourself at home.
Fill out a Health Care Proxy form
If you have not already filled out a Health Care Proxy form, we recommend you do now. If you already filled one out or have any other advance directives, bring them to your next appointment.
A health care proxy is a legal document. It says who will speak for you if you cannot communicate for yourself. This person is called your health care agent.
- To learn about health care proxies and other advance directives, read Advance Care Planning.
- To learn about being a health care agent, read How to Be a Health Care Agent.
Talk with a member of your care team if you have questions about filling out a Health Care Proxy form.
Do breathing and coughing exercises
Practice taking deep breaths and coughing before your surgery. Your healthcare provider will give you an incentive spirometer to help expand your lungs. For more information, read the resource How To Use Your Incentive Spirometer. If you have any questions, ask your nurse or respiratory therapist.
Do physical activity
Doing physical activity will help your body get into its best condition for your surgery. It will also make your recovery faster and easier.
Try to do physical activity every day. Any activity that makes your heart beat faster, such as walking, swimming, or biking, is a good choice. If it’s cold outside, use stairs in your home or go to a mall or shopping center.
Follow a healthy diet
Follow a well-balanced, healthy diet before your surgery. If you need help with your diet, talk with your healthcare provider about meeting with a clinical dietitian nutritionist.
7 days before your surgery
Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions for taking aspirin
Aspirin can cause bleeding. If you take aspirin or a medication that has aspirin, you may need to change your dose or stop taking it 7 days before your surgery. Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions. Do not stop taking aspirin unless they tell you to.
Stop taking vitamin E, multivitamins, herbal remedies, and other dietary supplements
Vitamin E, multivitamins, herbal remedies, and other dietary supplements can cause bleeding. Stop taking them 7 days before your surgery. If your healthcare provider gives you other instructions, follow those instead.
To learn more, read Herbal Remedies and Cancer Treatment.
2 days before your surgery
Stop taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen (Advil® and Motrin®) and naproxen (Aleve®), can cause bleeding. Stop taking them 2 days before your surgery. If your healthcare provider gives you other instructions, follow those instead.
1 day before your surgery
Note the time of your surgery
A staff member will call you after the day before your surgery. If your surgery is scheduled for a Monday, they’ll call you the Friday before. If you do not get a call by , call 212-639-5014.
The staff member will tell you what time to get to the hospital for your surgery. They’ll also remind you where to go.
This will be one of the following locations:
Josie Robertson Surgery Center
1133 York Avenue (at 61st Street)
New York, NY 10065
1275 York Avenue (between 67th and 68th Streets)
New York, NY 10065
Instructions for eating before your surgery
Do not eat anything after midnight (12 a.m.) the night before your surgery. This includes hard candy and gum.
The morning of your surgery
Instructions for drinking before your surgery
You can drink a total of 12 ounces of water between midnight (12 a.m.) and 2 hours before your scheduled arrival time. Do not drink anything else.
Do not drink anything starting 2 hours before your scheduled arrival time. This includes water.
Take your medications as instructed
A member of your care team will tell you which medications to take the morning of your surgery. Take only those medications with a sip of water. Depending on what medications you take, this may be all, some, or none of your usual morning medications.
Things to remember
- Wear something comfortable and loose-fitting.
- Don’t wear any lotion, cream, deodorant, makeup, powder, perfume, or cologne.
- Remove nail polish and nail wraps.
- If you wear contact lenses, wear your glasses instead. Wearing contact lenses during surgery can damage your eyes.
- Don’t wear any metal objects. Remove all jewelry, including body piercings. The tools used during your surgery can cause burns if they touch metal.
- Leave valuable items at home.
- If you’re menstruating (have your monthly period), use a sanitary pad, not a tampon. You’ll get disposable underwear, as well as a pad if needed.
What to bring
- Your breathing device for sleep apnea (such as your CPAP device), if you have one.
- Your incentive spirometer.
- Your Health Care Proxy form and other advance directives, if you completed them.
- Your cell phone and charger.
- A case for your personal items (such as eyeglasses, hearing aid(s), dentures, prosthetic device(s), wig, and religious articles), if you have one.
- This guide. Your healthcare team will use it to teach you how to care for yourself after surgery.
Once you’re in the hospital
Many staff members will ask you to say and spell your name and birth date. This is for your safety. People with the same or a similar name may be having surgery on the same day.
When it’s time to change for surgery, you’ll get a hospital gown, robe, and nonskid socks to wear.
Meet with a nurse
You’ll meet with a nurse before surgery. Tell them the dose of any medications you took after midnight (12 a.m.) and the time you took them. Make sure to include prescription and over-the-counter medications, patches, and creams.
Your nurse may place an intravenous (IV) line in one of your veins, usually in your arm or hand. If your nurse does not place the IV, your anesthesiologist will do it in the operating room.
Meet with an anesthesiologist
You’ll also meet with an anesthesiologist before surgery. They will:
- Review your medical history with you.
- Ask you if you’ve had any problems with anesthesia in the past, such as nausea or pain.
- Talk with you about your comfort and safety during your surgery.
- Talk with you about the kind of anesthesia you’ll get.
- Answer your questions about your anesthesia.
Get ready for your surgery
When it’s time for your surgery, you’ll need to remove your hearing aids, dentures, prosthetic device(s), wig, and religious articles, if you have them.
You’ll either walk into the operating room or be taken in on a stretcher. A member of the operating room team will help you onto the operating bed and place compression boots on your lower legs. These gently inflate and deflate to help blood flow in your legs.
Once you’re comfortable, your anesthesiologist will give you anesthesia through your IV line and you’ll fall asleep. You’ll also get fluids through your IV line during and after your surgery.
During your surgery
After you’re fully asleep, a breathing tube will be placed through your mouth and into your windpipe to help you breathe. Once your surgery is finished, your incision will be closed with sutures (stitches). You may also have Steri-Strips™ (thin pieces of surgical tape) or Dermabond® (surgical glue) over your incisions. Your breathing tube is usually taken out while you’re still in the operating room.
Recovering after your surgery
This section will help you know what to expect after your surgery. You’ll learn how to safely recover from your surgery both in the hospital and at home.
As you read through this section, write down questions to ask your healthcare provider.
In the hospital
When you wake up after your surgery, you’ll be in the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) or your recovery room. A nurse will be keeping track of your body temperature, pulse, blood pressure, and oxygen levels.
You may be getting oxygen through a thin tube that rests below your nose or a mask that covers your nose and mouth. You may also have a drain in your neck under your incision. If you do, it’s usually removed the day after your surgery.
The length of time you’re in the hospital after your surgery depends on your recovery. Most people stay in the hospital for 1 night. Your nurses and other healthcare providers will teach you how to care for yourself as you recover from your surgery.
You’ll have some pain after your surgery. At first, you’ll get pain medication through your IV line. When you can swallow liquids, you’ll get oral pain medication (pain medication that you swallow).
Your healthcare providers will ask you about your pain often and give you medication as needed. If your pain isn’t relieved, tell one of your healthcare providers. It’s important to control your pain so you can use your incentive spirometer and move around. Controlling your pain will help you recover better.
You’ll get a prescription for a mild pain medication before you leave the hospital. You may want to take extra strength acetaminophen (Extra Strength Tylenol®) instead. Talk with your healthcare provider about possible side effects and when you should start switching to over-the-counter pain medications.
Moving around and walking
Moving around and walking will help lower your risk for blood clots and pneumonia (lung infection). It will also help you start passing gas and having bowel movements (pooping) again. Your nurse, physical therapist, or occupational therapist will help you move around, if needed.
Read the resource Call! Don't Fall! to learn what you can do to stay safe and keep from falling while you’re in the hospital.
Using your incentive spirometer
Use your incentive spirometer 10 times every hour you’re awake. This will help your lungs expand, which helps prevent pneumonia. For more information, read the resource How To Use Your Incentive Spirometer.
Eating and drinking
You can start having ice chips and liquids several hours after your surgery. It’s normal to feel some discomfort while you’re swallowing. You’ll slowly progress to a regular diet. You won’t have to follow any dietary restrictions after the first night.
Your healthcare providers will check your blood calcium level after your surgery and give you a calcium supplement if needed. You may need to take this supplement for a few weeks until your parathyroid glands start working like usual.
Tell one of your healthcare providers if you have numbness and tingling in your hands, feet, and around your mouth. These are signs that your blood calcium level is low.
Getting ready to leave the hospital
Your nurse will teach you how to care for your incision before you leave the hospital. Instructions will also be written in the paperwork you’ll get when you leave.
Before you leave, look at your incision with one of your healthcare providers. Knowing what it looks like will help you notice any changes later.
Most people only have Steri-Strips covering their incision when they’re discharged. Leave them in place until your first appointment after surgery. Your healthcare provider will check them during this visit. If you have stitches over your incision, they’ll also be removed during this visit.
Read What You Can Do to Avoid Falling to learn what you can do to keep from falling at home and during your appointments at MSK.
Filling out your Recovery Tracker
We want to know how you’re feeling after you leave the hospital. To help us care for you, we’ll send questions to your MyMSK account. We’ll send them every day for 10 days after you’re discharged. These questions are known as your Recovery Tracker.
Fill out your Recovery Tracker every day before midnight (12 a.m.). It only takes 2 to 3 minutes to complete. Your answers to these questions will help us understand how you’re feeling and what you need.
Based on your answers, we may reach out to you for more information. Sometimes, we may ask you to call your surgeon’s office. You can always contact your surgeon’s office if you have any questions.
To learn more, read About Your Recovery Tracker.
Managing your pain
People have pain or discomfort for different lengths of time. You may still have some pain when you go home. This doesn’t mean something is wrong.
Follow these guidelines to help manage your pain at home.
- Take your medications as directed and as needed.
- Call your healthcare provider if the medication prescribed for you does not help your pain.
- Do not drive or drink alcohol while you’re taking prescription pain medication. Some prescription pain medications can make you drowsy (very sleepy). Alcohol can make the drowsiness worse.
You’ll have less pain and need less pain medication as your incision heals. An over-the-counter pain reliever will help with aches and discomfort. Acetaminophen (Tylenol®) and ibuprofen (Advil® or Motrin®) are examples of over-the-counter pain relievers.
- Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions for stopping your prescription pain medication.
- Do not take too much of any medication. Follow the instructions on the label or from your healthcare provider.
- Read the labels on all the medications you’re taking. This is very important if you’re taking acetaminophen. Acetaminophen is an ingredient in many over-the-counter and prescription medications. Taking too much can harm your liver. Do not take more than one medication that has acetaminophen without talking with a member of your care team.
- Pain medication should help you get back to your normal activities. Take enough medication to do your activities and exercises comfortably. You may have a little more pain as you start to be more active.
- Keep track of when you take your pain medication. It works best 30 to 45 minutes after you take it. Taking it when you first have pain is better than waiting for the pain to get worse.
Some prescription pain medications (such as opioids) may cause constipation (having fewer bowel movements than usual).
You can shower 24 hours (1 day) after your surgical drain is removed. If you don’t have a drain, you can shower 48 hours after your surgery.
Don’t tilt your head backward (like you’re looking at the ceiling) during your shower for 4 weeks after your surgery. Let the water run over your incision. Gently pat your incision dry with a clean towel or wash cloth. Call your healthcare provider if you see any redness or drainage from your incision.
Don’t take tub baths until talking with your healthcare provider at your first appointment after surgery.
Caring for your incision
Your incision’s location will depend on the type of surgery you had. If you go home with Steri-Strips on your incision, they’ll loosen and fall off on their own or your surgeon will remove them during your first appointment after surgery.
You may feel tightness along your incision as it heals. This feeling can come and go. It can last from a week to more than several months. It’s normal and you don’t need to worry about it. You may also have numbness at your incision site and in the surrounding area. This is also normal and will go away with time.
For the first year after your surgery, avoid having the sun on your incision site. Your healthcare provider will tell you when it’s safe to use sunscreen This is usually when your incision has closed completely.
Taking thyroid hormone medication
If your whole thyroid gland was removed, you’ll need to take a medication to replace the hormone your thyroid used to make. You must take it every day for the rest of your life.
There are many thyroid hormone medications. Levothyroxine (Levoxyl® or Synthroid®) is one example. For more information, read the resource Levothyroxine.
Your healthcare provider will prescribe a thyroid hormone medication for you and tell you how much to take. You may also need blood tests to make sure you’re getting enough, but not too much, of the medication. Your healthcare provider will change the dose as needed.
Taking calcium supplements
If you have parathyroid dysfunction or hypocalcemia after your surgery, you may also need to take a calcium supplement (such as Tums® Ultra). You can buy this at your local pharmacy without a prescription. Your healthcare provider will tell you how much to take.
If you’re taking calcium, your healthcare provider may also give you a prescription for calcitriol (such as Calcijex® or Rocaltrol®). This will help your body absorb the calcium.
Calcium can cause constipation, especially while you’re also taking pain medication. If you think this might be a problem for you, talk with your nurse. They may recommend a stool softener or laxative.
Don’t drive for 1 week after your surgery. After that, you can start driving again as long as you feel comfortable turning your neck to look for traffic.
Physical activity and exercise
For at least 4 weeks after your surgery, don’t tilt your head backward (like you’re looking up at the ceiling). This pulls on your incision. You can move your neck from side to side and downward.
Ask your healthcare provider when it’s safe to lift heavy objects.
- Most people shouldn’t lift anything heavier than 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) for at least 2 weeks after surgery.
- Don’t lift very heavy objects or use weights or machines on your upper body for at least 4 weeks after surgery. You can do lower body exercises.
Doing aerobic exercise, such as walking and stair climbing, will help you gain strength and feel better. Gradually increase the distance you walk. Climb stairs slowly, resting or stopping as needed. Ask your healthcare provider before starting more demanding exercises.
You’ll notice a gradual return of energy in the weeks after surgery. Some people find that their energy level varies for a month or two after surgery.
Your first appointment after surgery will be 7 to 10 days after your surgery. Your nurse will give you instructions for making this appointment, including the phone number to call. During this appointment, your surgeon will check your incision. They’ll also talk with you about your pathology report and whether you need more treatment.
Many people won’t need more treatment after surgery. However, if you have papillary thyroid cancer, you might need radioactive iodine therapy. Your healthcare team will talk with you to decide if this is the best treatment for you. Your team will include your surgeon, an endocrinologist (doctor who specializes in glands and hormones), and a doctor from nuclear medicine. If you need radioactive iodine, your endocrinologist will talk to you about how the treatment is given.
You’ll have thyroid function tests starting 6 to 8 weeks after your surgery. There are 2 tests: thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and free thyroxine (FT4). These tests will show whether you have the right amount of thyroid hormone in your blood. Your healthcare provider will use the results of these tests to adjust the amount of thyroid medication you take.
If you had your whole thyroid removed for papillary cancer, you’ll have a blood test called thyroglobulin 6 weeks after your surgery. You’ll have this blood test every year so your healthcare provider can look for patterns in your results.
If you have medullary thyroid cancer, you’ll have blood tests called carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) and calcitonin 6 weeks after your surgery. You’ll have these blood tests every year so your healthcare provider can look for patterns in your results.
When to Call Your Healthcare Provider
Call your healthcare provider if:
- You have a fever of 100.5 °F (38 °C) or higher.
- You have drainage from your incision.
- You have trouble breathing.
- The skin around your incision is warmer than usual.
- You have more discomfort in the area around your incision than usual.
- The area around your incision is more red than usual.
- You have new or increased swelling around your incision.
- You have numbness, twitching, or tingling around your mouth, fingertips, or toes.
- You have any questions or concerns.
Monday through Friday from to , call your healthcare provider’s office.
After , during the weekend, and on holidays, call 212-639-2000 and ask to speak to the person on call for your healthcare provider.
This section has a list of support services. They may help you as you get ready for your surgery and recover after your surgery.
As you read through this section, write down questions to ask your healthcare provider.
MSK support services
Visit the cancer types section of MSK’s website at www.msk.org/types for more information.
Call if you have questions about your hospital admission, such as asking for a private room.
At MSK, the Caregivers Clinic provides support specifically for caregivers who are having difficulty coping with the demands of being a caregiver. For more information, call Dr. Allison Applebaum’s office at 646-888-0200.
Many people find that counseling helps them. Our Counseling Center offers counseling for individuals, couples, families, and groups. We can also prescribe medications to help if you feel anxious or depressed. To make an appointment, ask your healthcare provider for a referral or call the number above.
Food Pantry Program
We give food to people in need during their cancer treatment. For more information, talk with your healthcare provider or call the number above.
Integrative Medicine Service
Our Integrative Medicine Service offers many services to complement (go along with) traditional medical care, including music therapy, mind/body therapies, dance and movement therapy, yoga, and touch therapy. To schedule an appointment for these services, call 646-449-1010.
You can also schedule a consultation with a healthcare provider in the Integrative Medicine Service. They will work with you to come up with a plan for creating a healthy lifestyle and managing side effects. To make an appointment, call 646-608-8550.
You can visit our library website or call to talk with the library reference staff. They can help you find more information about a type of cancer. You can also visit the library’s Patient and Health Care Consumer Education Guide.
Our Nutrition Service offers nutritional counseling with one of our clinical dietitian nutritionists. Your clinical dietitian nutritionist will talk with you about your eating habits. They can also give advice on what to eat during and after treatment. To make an appointment, ask a member of your care team for a referral or call the number above.
Patient and Caregiver Education
Visit our Patient and Caregiver Education website to search for educational resources, videos, and online programs.
Call if you have questions about preauthorization with your insurance company. This is also called preapproval.
Patient Representative Office
Call if you have questions about the Health Care Proxy form or concerns about your care.
Perioperative Nurse Liaison
Call if you have questions about MSK releasing any information while you’re having surgery.
Private Duty Nurses and Companions
You can request private nurses or companions to care for you in the hospital and at home. Call for more information.
Cancers and cancer treatments can make your body feel weak, stiff, or tight. Some can cause lymphedema (swelling). Our physiatrists (rehabilitation medicine doctors), occupational therapists (OTs), and physical therapists (PTs) can help you get back to your usual activities.
- Rehabilitation medicine doctors diagnose and treat problems that affect how you move and do activities. They can design and help coordinate your rehabilitation therapy program, either at MSK or somewhere closer to home. To learn more, call Rehabilitation Medicine (Physiatry) at 646-888-1929.
- An OT can help if you’re having trouble doing usual daily activities. For example, they can recommend tools to help make daily tasks easier. A PT can teach you exercises to help build strength and flexibility. To learn more, call Rehabilitation Therapy at 646-888-1900.
Resources for Life After Cancer (RLAC) Program
At MSK, care does not end after your treatment. The RLAC Program is for patients and their families who have finished treatment.
This program has many services. We offer seminars, workshops, support groups, and counseling on life after treatment. We can also help with insurance and employment issues.
Sexual Health Programs
Cancer and cancer treatments can affect your sexual health, fertility, or both. MSK’s sexual health programs can help you before, during, or after your treatment.
- Our Female Sexual Medicine and Women’s Health Program can help with sexual health problems, such as premature menopause or fertility issues. For more information or to make an appointment, call 646-888-5076.
- Our Male Sexual and Reproductive Medicine Program can help with sexual health problems, such as erectile dysfunction (ED). For more information or to make an appointment, call 646-888-6024.
Social workers help patients, families, and friends deal with common issues for people who have cancer. They provide individual counseling and support groups throughout your treatment. They can help you communicate with children and other family members.
Our social workers can also help refer you to community agencies and programs. They also have information about financial resources, if you’re having trouble paying your bills.
Our chaplains (spiritual counselors) are available to listen, help support family members, and pray. They can contact community clergy or faith groups, or simply be a comforting companion and a spiritual presence. Anyone can ask for spiritual support. You do not have to have a religious affiliation (connection to a religion).
MSK’s interfaith chapel is located near Memorial Hospital’s main lobby. It’s open 24 hours a day. If you have an emergency, call 212-639-2000. Ask for the chaplain on call.
Tobacco Treatment Program
MSK has specialists who can help you quit smoking. For more information about our Tobacco Treatment Program, call 212-610-0507. You can also ask your nurse about the program.
Our Virtual Programs offer online education and support for patients and caregivers. These are live sessions where you can talk or just listen. You can learn about your diagnosis, what to expect during treatment, and how to prepare for your cancer care.
Sessions are private, free, and led by experts. Visit our website for more information about Virtual Programs or to register.
External support services
In New York City, the MTA offers a shared ride, door-to-door service for people with disabilities who can’t take the public bus or subway.
American Cancer Society (ACS)
Offers a variety of information and services, including Hope Lodge, a free place for patients and caregivers to stay during cancer treatment.
Cancer and Careers
A resource for education, tools, and events for employees with cancer.
275 Seventh Avenue (Between West 25th & 26th Streets)
New York, NY 10001
Provides counseling, support groups, educational workshops, publications, and financial assistance.
Cancer Support Community
Provides support and education to people affected by cancer.
A place where men, women, and children living with cancer find social and emotional support through networking, workshops, lectures, and social activities.
Offers financial assistance to pay for copayments during treatment. Patients must have medical insurance, meet the income criteria, and be prescribed medication that’s part of the Good Days formulary.
LGBT Cancer Project
Provides support and advocacy for the LGBT community, including online support groups and a database of LGBT-friendly clinical trials.
Provides reproductive information and support to cancer patients and survivors whose medical treatments have risks associated with infertility.
Look Good Feel Better Program
This program offers workshops to learn things you can do to help you feel better about your appearance. For more information or to sign up for a workshop, call the number above or visit the program’s website.
National Cancer Legal Services Network
Free cancer legal advocacy program.
National LGBT Cancer Network
Provides education, training, and advocacy for LGBT cancer survivors and those at risk.
Lists Patient Assistance Programs for brand and generic name medications.
Provides prescription benefits to eligible employees and retirees of public sector employers in New York State.
Patient Advocate Foundation
Provides access to care, financial assistance, insurance assistance, job retention assistance, and access to the national underinsured resource directory.
Thyroid cancer support services
Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association
This section lists the educational resources mentioned in this guide. They will help you get ready for your surgery and recover after your surgery.
As you read through these resources, write down questions to ask your healthcare provider.
- A Guide for Caregivers
- About Your Recovery Tracker
- Advance Care Planning
- Common Medications Containing Aspirin, Other Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), or Vitamin E
- Herbal Remedies and Cancer Treatment
- How to Be a Health Care Agent
- How To Use Your Incentive Spirometer
- How to Enroll in MyMSK: Memorial Sloan Kettering's Patient Portal
- What You Can Do to Avoid Falling