radical-cystectomyAll eyes are on Canada. Oncologists, surgeons, and scientists around the world are watching based on the results of a new study published in International Oncology based on the work of doctors at the University of Alberta.

Doctors at the University of Alberta Hospital have removed patients’ thyroids from their necks and repositioned them in the body in the patients’ forearms. This protects the sensitive and delicate glands from damage during radiation treatments for various cancers of the head and neck. The success of the operation has the University of Alberta Medical team as well as Medical Professional around the world asking if this procedure can be done with the thyroid, can it be done with other organs?

Often referred to as the butterfly-shaped gland, the thyroid is found in the cradle of the neck between the Adam’s apple and the suprasternal notch of the collar bone wrapped round the trachea. The thyroid secretes hormones that influence various functions throughout the body but importantly metabolism, and also growth and temperature.

The gland does very important work in the body and damaging or losing it is not a desirable outcome. Yet frequently patients undergoing radiation for various cancers of the head and neck have their thyroid bombarded with radiation and the health of their thyroid becomes collateral damage in the treatment of their cancer.

Doctors at the University of Alberta began with the idea that the thyroid does not necessarily have to be in the neck. It could be anywhere in the body so long as there is the same bloodflow going in and going out. By maintaining the same blood flow, the thyroid will continue to function.

To date, 14 individuals have undergone this new surgical procedure. Their thyroids have successfully be removed from their necks and placed in their forearms. All 14 appear be unaffected with healthy thyroid function.

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