About Your Thyroid Surgery

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.

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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 consists of 2 lobes. Your thyroid produces hormones that control the way your body turns oxygen and calories into energy.

Lymph nodes are small oval or round structures found throughout your body. They make and store cells that fight infection.

Your parathyroid glands lie behind your thyroid. They produce a hormone that helps to maintain the level of calcium in your blood.

Figure 1. Your thyroid gland

Figure 1. Your thyroid gland

Removing your thyroid gland

During your thyroid surgery, all or part of your thyroid gland will be removed. The surgery is done through an incision (surgical cut) in the lower part of the front of your neck. Your surgeon will examine the whole thyroid gland. They will decide how much of your thyroid needs to be removed and will check the lymph nodes that are next to your thyroid.

  • If half of your thyroid is removed, it’s called a lobectomy or hemi-thyroidectomy.
  • If your entire thyroid is removed, it’s called a total thyroidectomy.

Your surgery will take 2 to 3 hours.

Nerve injuries during your thyroid surgery

There are 2 nerves around 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.

Recurrent laryngeal nerve

Your recurrent laryngeal nerve goes behind your thyroid to your voice box. If your tumor is close to this nerve or if 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.

If the hoarseness in your voice doesn’t get better, you’ll need to have a procedure to have your throat checked. You may also need to see a laryngologist (voice doctor).

There are different ways to improve your voice if your recurrent laryngeal nerve is injured, including surgery or an injection (shot) into your vocal cord. Your doctor will talk with you about these options.

Before your thyroid surgery, your doctor will check your vocal cords to make sure your recurrent laryngeal nerve isn’t close to your tumor. If the tumor is large or close to your nerve, your risk of nerve injury is much higher. While this is rare, it may lead to problems with your vocal cords.

Superior laryngeal nerve

Your superior laryngeal nerve helps you raise 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. Some nerve injury is common after thyroid surgery and will go away with time. If your voice doesn’t get better, you’ll need to have a procedure to have your throat checked.

After your surgery, your doctor will check your airway. If you have any changes in your voice or breathing, you may need to have your throat checked. If this happens, your doctor will give you more information.

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Before Your Surgery

The information in this section will help you get ready for your surgery. Read through this section when your surgery is scheduled and refer to it as your surgery date gets closer. It has important information about what you need to do before your surgery.

Write down your questions and be sure to ask your healthcare provider.

Getting ready for your surgery

You and your healthcare team will work together to get ready for your surgery. Help us keep you safe during your surgery by telling us if any of the following statements apply to you, even if you aren’t sure.

  • I take a blood thinner. Some examples are aspirin, heparin, warfarin (Jantoven®, Coumadin®), clopidogrel (Plavix®), enoxaparin (Lovenox®), dabigatran (Pradaxa®), apixaban (Eliquis®), and rivaroxaban (Xarelto®). There are others, so be sure your healthcare provider knows all the medications you’re taking.
  • I take prescription medications (medications prescribed by a healthcare provider), 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 you 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.
  • I use recreational drugs.

About drinking alcohol

The amount of alcohol you drink can affect you during and after your surgery. It’s important to talk with your healthcare providers about how much alcohol you drink. This will help us plan your care.

  • If you stop drinking alcohol suddenly, it can cause seizures, delirium, and death. If we know you’re at risk for these complications, we can prescribe medications to help keep them from happening.
  • If you drink alcohol regularly, you may be at risk for other complications during and after your surgery. These include bleeding, infections, heart problems, and a longer hospital stay.

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. If you develop a headache, nausea (feeling like you’re going to throw up), increased anxiety, or can’t sleep after you stop drinking, tell your healthcare provider right away. These are early signs of alcohol withdrawal and can be treated.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if you can’t stop drinking.
  • Ask your healthcare provider questions about drinking and surgery. As always, all of your medical information will be kept confidential.

About smoking

If you smoke, you can have breathing problems when you have surgery. Stopping even for a few days before surgery can help. If you smoke, your healthcare provider will refer you to our Tobacco Treatment Program. You can also reach the program by calling 212-610-0507.

About sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is a common breathing disorder that causes you to stop breathing for short periods of time while sleeping. The most common type is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). With OSA, your airway becomes completely blocked during sleep. OSA can cause serious problems during and after surgery.

Please tell us if you have sleep apnea or if you think you might have it. If you use a breathing device (such as a CPAP device) for sleep apnea, bring it with you the day of your surgery.

Using MyMSK

MyMSK (my.mskcc.org) is your MSK patient portal account. You can use MyMSK to send and receive messages from your healthcare team, view your test results, see your appointment dates and times, and more. You can also invite your caregiver to create their own account so they can see information about your care.

If you don’t have a MyMSK account, you can visit my.mskcc.org, call 646-227-2593, or call your doctor’s office for an enrollment ID to sign up. You can also watch our video How to Enroll in MyMSK: Memorial Sloan Kettering's Patient Portal. For help, contact the MyMSK Help Desk by emailing mymsk@mskcc.org or calling 800-248-0593.

Within 30 days of your surgery

Presurgical Testing (PST)

Before your surgery, you’ll have an appointment for presurgical testing (PST). The date, time, and location of your PST appointment will be printed on the appointment reminder from your surgeon’s office.

You can eat and take your usual medications the day of your PST appointment.

During your appointment, you’ll meet with a nurse practitioner (NP) who works 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, such as an electrocardiogram (EKG) to check your heart rhythm, a chest x-ray, blood tests, and any other tests needed to plan your care. Your NP may also recommend that you see other healthcare providers.

Your NP will talk with you about which medications you should take the morning of your surgery.

It’s very helpful to bring the following things to your PST 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 name(s) and telephone number(s) of your healthcare provider(s).

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 from the hospital. They’ll also help you care for yourself at home.

For caregivers

‌  Resources and support are available to help manage the responsibilities that come with caring for a person going through cancer treatment. For support resources and information, visit www.mskcc.org/caregivers or read A Guide for Caregivers.

Complete a Health Care Proxy form

If you haven’t already completed a Health Care Proxy form, we recommend you complete one now. If you have completed one already, or if you have any other advance directives, bring them to your next appointment.

A health care proxy is a legal document that identifies the person who will speak for you if you can’t communicate for yourself. The person you identify is called your health care agent.

Talk with your healthcare provider if you’re interested in completing a health care proxy. You can also read the resources Advance Care Planning and How to Be a Health Care Agent for information about health care proxies, other advance directives, and being a health care agent.

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.

Exercise

Try to do aerobic exercise every day. Aerobic exercise is any exercise that makes your heart beat faster, such as walking, swimming, or biking. If it’s cold outside, use stairs in your home or go to a mall or shopping center. Exercising will help your body get into its best condition for your surgery and make your recovery faster and easier.

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.

Buy supplies

You’ll need to have the following medications once you’re home after your surgery:

  • Calcium supplement such as calcium carbonate (Tums Ultra®)

7 days before your surgery

Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions for taking aspirin

If you take aspirin or a medication that contains aspirin, you may need to change your dose or stop taking it 7 days before your surgery. Aspirin can cause bleeding.

Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions. Don’t stop taking aspirin unless they tell you to. For more information, read the resource Common Medications Containing Aspirin, Other Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), or Vitamin E.

Stop taking vitamin E, multivitamins, herbal remedies, and other dietary supplements

Stop taking vitamin E, multivitamins, herbal remedies, and other dietary supplements 7 days before your surgery. These things can cause bleeding. For more information, read the resource Herbal Remedies and Cancer Treatment.

2 days before your surgery

Stop taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

Stop taking NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®) and naproxen (Aleve®), 2 days before your surgery. These medications can cause bleeding. For more information, read the resource Common Medications Containing Aspirin, Other Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), or Vitamin E.

1 day before your surgery

Note the time of your surgery

A staff member from the Admitting Office will call you after 2:00 pm the day before your surgery. If your surgery is scheduled for a Monday, they’ll call you on the Friday before. If you don’t get a call by 7:00 pm, call 212-639-5014.

The staff member will tell you what time to arrive at the hospital for your surgery. They’ll also remind you where to go.

Instructions for eating before your surgery

‌  
Do not eat anything after midnight 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 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

If your healthcare provider told you to take certain medications 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 put on 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 equipment used during your surgery can cause burns if it touches 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

You’ll be asked to say and spell your name and birth date many times. 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 (including prescription and over-the-counter medications, patches, and creams) and the time you took them.

Your nurse may place an intravenous (IV) line in one of your veins, usually in your arm or hand. If your nurse doesn’t 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, including 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 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.

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After Your Surgery

The information in this section will tell you what to expect after your surgery, both during your hospital stay and after you leave the hospital. You’ll learn how to safely recover from your surgery.

Write down your questions and be sure to ask your healthcare provider.

What to expect

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’ll get oxygen through a thin tube that rests below your nose called a nasal cannula.

You may have a drain in your neck under your incision. It’s usually removed the day after surgery.

Your nurse will teach you how to recover from your surgery. Below are examples of ways you can help yourself recover safely.

  • Start moving around and walking as soon as you’re able to. Walking helps lower your risk for blood clots and pneumonia. It also helps to stimulate your bowels so they begin working again. Your nurse or physical therapist will help you move around. Your nurse will also give you medication to relieve pain.
  • Use your incentive spirometer. This will help your lungs expand, which prevents pneumonia. For more information, read the resource How to Use Your Incentive Spirometer.

Commonly asked questions: During your stay

Will I have pain?

You’ll have some pain after your surgery. Your doctor and nurse will ask you about your pain often and give you medication as needed. If your pain isn’t relieved, tell your doctor or nurse. It’s important to control your pain so you can use your incentive spirometer and move around.

You’ll be given pain medication through your intravenous (IV) catheter at first. When you can swallow liquids, you’ll get your pain medication by mouth. You’ll be given a prescription for a mild pain medication before you go home. You may want to take extra strength acetaminophen (Extra Strength Tylenol®) instead. Talk with your doctor or nurse about possible side effects and when you should start switching to over-the-counter pain medications.

Will I be able to eat after surgery?

You can begin to take 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. There will be no dietary restrictions after the first night.

What side effects will I have after my surgery?

You may have temporary parathyroid dysfunction after your surgery. This means that your parathyroid glands may not make enough hormone to maintain the 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 may cause numbness and tingling in your hands, feet, and around your mouth. Call your doctor if you have any of these symptoms. Your doctor will tell you if you have to take calcium supplements to help with this.

Commonly asked questions: At home

Read the resource What You Can Do to Avoid Falling to learn about what you can do to stay safe and keep from falling at home and during your appointments at MSK.

What’s the Recovery Tracker?

We want to know how you’re feeling after you leave the hospital. To help us continue caring for you, we’ll send a group of questions to your MyMSK account every day for 10 days after you leave the hospital. These questions are known as your Recovery Tracker.

Fill out your Recovery Tracker every day before midnight (12:00 am). 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 or ask you to call your surgeon’s office to give us more information. You can always contact your surgeon’s office if you have any questions. For more information, read the resource About Your Recovery Tracker .

Will I have pain when I am home?

The length of time each person has pain or discomfort varies. You may still have some pain when you go home.

Follow the guidelines below to help manage your pain at home.

  • Take your medications as directed and as needed.
  • Call your doctor if the medication prescribed for you doesn’t relieve your pain.
  • Don’t drive or drink alcohol while you’re taking prescription pain medication.
  • As your incision heals, you’ll have less pain and need less pain medication. An over-the-counter pain reliever such as acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (Advil®) will relieve aches and discomfort.
  • Follow your doctor or nurse’s instructions for stopping your prescription pain medication.
  • Don’t take more acetaminophen than the amount directed on the bottle or as instructed by your doctor or nurse. Taking too much acetaminophen can harm your liver.
  • Pain medication should help you resume your normal activities. Take enough medication to do your exercises comfortably. However, it’s normal for your pain to increase slightly as you increase your level of activity.
  • Keep track of when you take your pain medication. It works best 30 to 45 minutes after you take it. Taking it when your pain first begins is more effective than waiting for the pain to get worse.

Pain medication may cause constipation (having fewer bowel movements than what’s normal for you).

Can I shower?

You can shower 48 hours 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 upwards during your shower for 4 weeks after your surgery. Let the water run over your incision line. Gently pat your incision dry with a clean towel or wash cloth. Call your doctor if you see any redness or drainage from your incision.

Don’t take tub baths until you discuss it with your doctor at the first appointment after your surgery.

How do I care for my incision?

Before you go home, your nurse will teach you how to care for your incision. These instructions will be written in the paperwork you’ll receive when you leave. In most cases, your staples or stitches will be removed during your first appointment with your doctor after your surgery.

By the time you’re ready to leave the hospital, your incision will have started to heal. Before you leave the hospital, look at your incision with your nurse. Knowing what your incision looks like will help you notice any changes later.

The location of your incision will depend on the type of surgery you had. It’s normal for the skin below your incision to feel numb, because some of the nerves were cut. The numbness will go away over time.

If you go home with Steri-Strips on your incision, they will loosen and fall off by themselves. If you go home with Dermabond on your incision, it will also loosen and peel off by itself. If the Steri-Strips and Dermabond haven’t fallen off within 10 days, you may remove them.

What other medications will I need to take after surgery?

Thyroid hormone medication

If your entire thyroid gland was removed, you’ll need to take a medication to replace the hormone your thyroid used to produce. You must take it every day for the rest of your life. There are many thyroid hormone medications. Levothyroxine (Levoxyl®, Synthroid®) is one example. For more information, read the resource Levothyroxine.

Your doctor 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 doctor will change the dose as needed.

Calcium supplements

If you have parathyroid dysfunction or hypocalcemia after your surgery, you may also need to take calcium supplements. You can buy them at your local pharmacy without a prescription. Ask your doctor how much you should take. If you’re taking calcium, your doctor may also want you to take vitamin D to help your body absorb it.

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. A stool softener or laxative may be recommended.

When is it safe for me to drive?

You may resume driving 1 week after surgery as long as you feel comfortable turning your neck to look for traffic.

When can I lift heavy objects?

Ask your doctor when it’s safe for you to lift heavy objects after your surgery. Most people shouldn’t lift anything heavier than 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) for at least 6 weeks after surgery.

What exercises can I do?

Don’t use weights or machines on your upper body for at least 4 weeks after your 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 doctor or nurse before starting more demanding exercises.

What other restrictions will I have?

For at least 4 weeks after your surgery, don’t tilt your head backward (as in looking up at the ceiling). This pulls on your incision. You can move your neck from side to side and downward.

For the first year after your surgery, avoid having the sun on your incision site. Your doctor or nurse will tell you when it’s safe to use sunscreen, but it’s usually when your incision has closed completely.

How long will it take for me to recover?

You’ll notice a gradual return of energy in the weeks after surgery. Some people find their energy level varies for a month or 2.

My incision feels tight, is that normal?

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 improve with time.

When is my first appointment after surgery?

Your first appointment after surgery will be 7 to 10 days after your surgery. Your nurse will give you instructions on how to make this appointment, including the phone number to call.

Your surgeon will check your incision. Your pathology report should be ready and your surgeon will discuss it with you. You’ll also talk about whether you need more treatment.

Will I need more treatment?

Many people won’t need more treatment. 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, and a doctor from nuclear medicine. If you need radioactive iodine, your endocrinologist will talk to you about how the treatment is given.

Will I need special blood tests after my surgery?

You’ll have thyroid function tests beginning 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 doctor or NP will use the results of these tests to adjust the amount of thyroid medication you take.

If you had your entire thyroid removed for papillary cancer, you’ll need to have a blood test called thyroglobulin 6 weeks after your surgery. You’ll have this blood test every year so your doctor can look out for patterns in your results.

If you have medullary thyroid cancer, you’ll need to have blood tests called carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) and calcitonin 6 weeks after your surgery. You’ll have these blood tests every year so your doctor can look out for patterns in your results.

What if I have other questions?

If you have any questions or concerns, talk with your doctor or nurse. You can reach them Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.

After 5:00 pm, during the weekend, and on holidays, call 212-639-2000 and ask for the doctor on call for your doctor.

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider if you have:

  • A fever of 100.4° F (38° C) or higher
  • Drainage from your incision
  • Trouble breathing
  • Warmer than normal skin around your incision
  • Increased discomfort in the area around your incision
  • Increased redness around your incision
  • New or increased swelling around your incision
  • Numbness, twitching, or tingling around your mouth, fingertips, or toes
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Support Services

This section contains a list of support services that may help you get ready for your surgery and recover safely.

Write down your questions and be sure to ask your healthcare provider.

    MSK support services

    Admitting Office
    212-639-7606
    Call if you have questions about your hospital admission, including requesting a private room.

    Anesthesia
    212-639-6840
    Call if you have questions about anesthesia.

    Blood Donor Room
    212-639-7643
    Call for more information if you’re interested in donating blood or platelets.

    Bobst International Center
    888-675-7722
    MSK welcomes patients from around the world. If you’re an international patient, call for help arranging your care.

    Chaplaincy Service
    212-639-5982
    At MSK, our chaplains are available to listen, help support family members, pray, contact community clergy or faith groups, or simply be a comforting companion and a spiritual presence. Anyone can request spiritual support, regardless of formal religious affiliation. The interfaith chapel is located near the main lobby of Memorial Hospital and is open 24 hours a day. If you have an emergency, please call the hospital operator and ask for the chaplain on call.

    Counseling Center
    646-888-0200
    Many people find that counseling helps them. We provide counseling for individuals, couples, families, and groups, as well as 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
    646-888-8055
    The food pantry program provides 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
    646-888-0800
    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.

    MSK Library
    library.mskcc.org
    212-639-7439
    You can visit our library website or speak with the library reference staff to find more information about your specific cancer type. You can also visit LibGuides on MSK’s library website at libguides.mskcc.org.

    Patient and Caregiver Education
    www.mskcc.org/pe
    Visit the Patient and Caregiver Education website to search our virtual library. There you can find written educational resources, videos, and online programs.

    Patient and Caregiver Peer Support Program
    212-639-5007
    You may find it comforting to speak with someone who has been through a treatment similar to yours. You can talk with a former MSK patient or caregiver through our Patient and Caregiver Peer Support Program. These conversations are confidential. They may take place in person or over the phone.

    Patient Billing
    646-227-3378
    Call if you have questions about preauthorization with your insurance company. This is also called preapproval.

    Patient Representative Office
    212-639-7202
    Call if you have questions about the Health Care Proxy form or if you have concerns about your care.

    Perioperative Nurse Liaison
    212-639-5935
    Call if you have questions about MSK releasing any information while you’re having surgery.

    Private Duty Nursing Office
    212-639-6892
    You may request private nurses or companions. Call for more information.

    Resources for Life After Cancer (RLAC) Program
    646-888-8106
    At MSK, care doesn’t end after active treatment. The RLAC Program is for patients and their families who have finished treatment. This program has many services, including seminars, workshops, support groups, counseling on life after treatment, and help with insurance and employment issues.

    Sexual Health Programs
    Cancer and cancer treatments can have an impact on your sexual health. MSK’s Sexual Health Programs can help you take action and address sexual health issues before, during, or after your treatment.

    • Our Female Sexual Medicine and Women’s Health Program helps women who are dealing with cancer-related sexual health challenges, including premature menopause and fertility issues. For more information, or to make an appointment, call 646-888-5076.
    • Our Male Sexual and Reproductive Medicine Program helps men who are dealing with cancer-related sexual health challenges, including erectile dysfunction. For more information, or to make an appointment, call 646-888-6024.

    Social Work
    212-639-7020
    Social workers help patients, family, and friends deal with issues that are common for cancer patients. They provide individual counseling and support groups throughout the course of treatment, and can help you communicate with children and other family members. Our social workers can also help refer you to community agencies and programs, as well as financial resources if you’re eligible.

    Tobacco Treatment Program
    212-610-0507
    If you want to quit smoking, MSK has specialists who can help. Call for more information.

    Virtual Programs
    www.mskcc.org/vp
    MSK’s Virtual Programs offer online education and support for patients and caregivers, even when you can’t come to MSK in person. Through live, interactive sessions, you can learn about your diagnosis, what to expect during treatment, and how to prepare for the various stages of your cancer care. Sessions are confidential, free, and led by expert clinical staff. If you’re interested in joining a Virtual Program, visit our website at www.mskcc.org/vp for more information.

    For more online information, visit the Cancer Types section of www.mskcc.org.

    External support services

    Access-A-Ride
    web.mta.info/nyct/paratran/guide.htm
    877-337-2017
    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.

    Air Charity Network
    www.aircharitynetwork.org
    877-621-7177
    Provides travel to treatment centers.

    American Cancer Society (ACS)
    www.cancer.org
    800-ACS-2345 (800-227-2345)
    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
    www.cancerandcareers.org
    A resource for education, tools, and events for employees with cancer.

    CancerCare
    www.cancercare.org
    800-813-4673
    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
    www.cancersupportcommunity.org
    Provides support and education to people affected by cancer.

    Caregiver Action Network
    www.caregiveraction.org
    800-896-3650
    Provides education and support for people who care for loved ones with a chronic illness or disability.

    Corporate Angel Network
    www.corpangelnetwork.org
    866-328-1313
    Offers free travel to treatment across the country using empty seats on corporate jets.

    Gilda’s Club
    www.gildasclubnyc.org
    212-647-9700
    A place where men, women, and children living with cancer find social and emotional support through networking, workshops, lectures, and social activities.

    Good Days
    www.mygooddays.org
    877-968-7233
    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.

    Healthwell Foundation
    www.healthwellfoundation.org
    800-675-8416
    Provides financial assistance to cover copayments, health care premiums, and deductibles for certain medications and therapies.

    Joe’s House
    www.joeshouse.org
    877-563-7468
    Provides a list of places to stay near treatment centers for people with cancer and their families.

    LGBT Cancer Project
    http://lgbtcancer.com/
    Provides support and advocacy for the LGBT community, including online support groups and a database of LGBT-friendly clinical trials.

    LIVESTRONG Fertility
    www.livestrong.org/we-can-help/fertility-services
    855-744-7777
    Provides reproductive information and support to cancer patients and survivors whose medical treatments have risks associated with infertility.

    Look Good Feel Better Program
    www.lookgoodfeelbetter.org
    800-395-LOOK (800-395-5665)
    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 Institute
    www.cancer.gov
    800-4-CANCER (800-422-6237)

    National Cancer Legal Services Network
    www.nclsn.org
    Free cancer legal advocacy program.

    National LGBT Cancer Network
    www.cancer-network.org
    Provides education, training, and advocacy for LGBT cancer survivors and those at risk.

    Needy Meds
    www.needymeds.org
    Lists Patient Assistance Programs for brand and generic name medications.

    NYRx
    www.nyrxplan.com
    Provides prescription benefits to eligible employees and retirees of public sector employers in New York State.

    Partnership for Prescription Assistance
    www.pparx.org
    888-477-2669
    Helps qualifying patients without prescription drug coverage get free or low-cost medications.

    Patient Access Network Foundation
    www.panfoundation.org
    866-316-7263
    Provides assistance with copayments for patients with insurance.

    Patient Advocate Foundation
    www.patientadvocate.org
    800-532-5274
    Provides access to care, financial assistance, insurance assistance, job retention assistance, and access to the national underinsured resource directory.

    RxHope
    www.rxhope.com
    877-267-0517
    Provides assistance to help people get medications that they have trouble affording.

    Thyroid cancer support services

    Support for People with Oral and Head and Neck Cancer (SPOHNC)
    www.spohnc.org
    800-377-0928
    Provides information and support for people with oral and head and neck cancer.

    Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association
    www.thyca.org

    SHARE
    www.sharecancersupport.org
    866-891-2392
    Offers support groups for survivors of breast, metastatic breast, and ovarian cancer in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island.

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    Educational Resources

    This section contains the educational resources that were referred to throughout this guide. These resources will help you get ready for your surgery and recover safely after surgery.

    Write down your questions and be sure to ask your healthcare provider.

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