A neck dissection is surgery to remove all or some of the lymph nodes and surrounding tissue from the neck. Lymph nodes are small, round or bean-shaped glands. They remove germs from your body, help fight infection, and trap cancer cells. This surgery is most often done to treat cancer of the head and neck.
You and your doctor will plan your treatment based on your wishes and the reason for your surgery. Every person's treatment is different. Sometimes surgery to remove a tumour is done at the same time. In this case, your doctor may give you other information to help you prepare for both surgeries.
You will be asleep during the surgery. Your doctor may make cuts under your chin and toward your ear, at the bottom of your neck, or in the middle of your neck. This depends on which lymph nodes must be removed. These cuts are called incisions. They are closed with stitches, staples, or skin clips. They will leave scars that fade with time.
Most people stay in the hospital for several days or longer after surgery. How long you stay depends on why you need surgery and how much tissue was taken out.
You may be able to go back to work or your normal routine a few weeks after the surgery. This depends on your job and the extent of your surgery.
Having cancer can be scary. You may feel many emotions and may need some help coping. Seek out family, friends, and counsellors for support. You also can do things at home to help you feel better while you go through treatment. Your doctor can guide you to many local resources for support and more information. Call the Canadian Cancer Society (1-888-939-3333) or visit its website at www.cancer.ca for more information.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.
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Current as of: July 29, 2016
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
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