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.

Back to top

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.

Figure 1. Your thyroid gland

Figure 1. Your thyroid gland

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.

Nerve injuries

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.

Back to top

Before Your Surgery

The information in this section will help you get ready for your surgery. Read 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.

As you read through this section, write down any questions you want to ask your healthcare provider.

Getting ready for your surgery

You and your care 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, such as:
    • Aspirin
    • Heparin
    • Warfarin (Jantoven® or Coumadin®)
    • Clopidogrel (Plavix®)
    • Enoxaparin (Lovenox®)
    • Dabigatran (Pradaxa®)
    • Apixaban (Eliquis®)
    • Rivaroxaban (Xarelto®)
    There are others, so be sure your healthcare provider knows all the medications you’re taking.
  • 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’ve 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, e-cigarette, or Juul®).
  • 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. Your healthcare provider will refer you to our Tobacco Treatment Program if you smoke. 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 care 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 will be printed on the appointment reminder from your surgeon’s office. It’s 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).

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

During your PST appointment, you’ll meet with a nurse practitioner (NP). 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, 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.

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’ve already completed one or 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.

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® and 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.

This will be one of the following locations:

  • Josie Robertson Surgery Center
    1133 York Avenue (at 61st Street)
    New York, NY 10065
  • Memorial Hospital
    1275 York Avenue (between 67th and 68th Streets)
    New York, NY 10065

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 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 (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 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.

Back to top

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.

As you read through this section, write down any questions you want 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.

Pain medication

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.

Managing hypocalcemia

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.

At home

Read the resource What You Can Do to Avoid Falling to learn what you can do to stay safe and 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 continue caring for you, we’ll send 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 for more information or ask you to call your surgeon’s office. You can always contact your surgeon’s office if you have any questions. For more information, read the resource 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 the guidelines below 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 doesn’t ease your pain.
  • Don’t drive or drink alcohol while you’re taking prescription pain medication. Some prescription pain medications can make you drowsy. Alcohol can make the drowsiness worse.
  • 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® or Motrin®) will ease aches and discomfort.
    • Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions for stopping your prescription pain medication.
    • Don’t take more of any medication than the amount directed on the label or as instructed by your healthcare provider.
    • Read the labels on all the medications you’re taking, especially if you’re taking acetaminophen. Acetaminophen is an ingredient in many over-the-counter and prescription medications. Taking too much can harm your liver. Don’t take more than one medication that contains acetaminophen without talking with a member of your care team.
  • Pain medication should help you resume your normal activities. Take enough medication to do your activities and exercises comfortably. It’s normal for your pain to increase a little 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).

Showering

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.

Driving

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.

Follow-up care

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.

Blood tests

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.

Back to top

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.

Contact information

Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, call your healthcare provider’s office.

After 5:00 pm, during the weekend, and on holidays, call 212-639-2000 and ask to speak to the person on call for your healthcare provider.

Back to top

Support Services

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

As you read through this section, write down any questions you want to ask your healthcare provider.

    MSK support services

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

    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 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.

    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.

    Female Sexual Medicine and Women’s Health Program
    646-888-5076
    Cancer and cancer treatments can have an impact on your sexual health. Our Female Sexual Medicine and Women’s Health Program can help if you’re dealing with cancer-related sexual health challenges such as premature menopause or fertility issues. Call for more information or to make an appointment. We can help you take action and address sexual health issues before, during, or after your treatment.

    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.

    Male Sexual and Reproductive Medicine Program
    646-888-6024
    Cancer and cancer treatments can have an impact on your sexual health. Our Male Sexual and Reproductive Medicine Program can help if you’re dealing with cancer-related sexual health challenges such as erectile dysfunction (ED). Call for information or to make an appointment. We can help you take action and address sexual health issues before, during, or after your treatment.

    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 like 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.

    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.

    Spiritual Care
    212-639-5982
    Our chaplains (spiritual counselors) 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. 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
    212-610-0507
    If you want to quit smoking, MSK has specialists who can help. Call for 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.

    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.

    Back to top

    Educational Resources

    This section has the educational resources mentioned in this guide. These resources will help you get ready for your surgery and recover safely after surgery.

    As you read through these resources, write down any questions you want to ask your healthcare provider.

    Back to top

    Tell us what you think

    Tell us what you think

    Your feedback will help us improve the information we provide to patients and caregivers. We read every comment, but we're not able to respond. If you have questions about your care, contact your healthcare provider.
     

    Questions Yes Somewhat No

    Last Updated