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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 that act like filters. 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 may leave the hospital with stitches in your cut (incision). Your doctor will tell you if you need to return to have these removed. You may still have a tube called a drain in your neck. Your doctor will probably take this out a few days after your surgery.
The area may also be swollen, and you may have a stiff neck. For most people, the swelling starts to go away 4 to 5 days after surgery. You may have numbness in your neck and ear. Your lower lip or shoulder may feel weak. For most people, these problems go away in 6 to 12 months. But sometimes these problems can be permanent. You may always feel a little numb, stiff, or weak in some areas.
If a neck muscle was removed, your neck may look flatter or thinner.
If you have cancer, you may still need other treatment after surgery, such as radiation or chemotherapy.
When you find out that you have cancer, 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 make yourself feel better while you go through treatment. Call the Canadian Cancer Society (1-888-939-3333) or visit its website at www.cancer.ca for more information.
This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to get better as quickly as possible.
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 or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) 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.
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:
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Current as of: November 30, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.
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