- A neck dissection is a surgery to remove lymph nodes from the neck. The lymph nodes in the neck are called cervical lymph nodes. This surgery is also called a cervical lymph node dissection or a cervical lymphadenectomy.
- The lymph nodes are part of the lymphatic system The lymphatic system helps fight infections and is made up of lymph vessels, lymph fluid, lymph nodes, bone marrow and the lymphatic organs (thymus, adenoid, tonsil and spleen).
- Lymph vessels are thin tubes similar to blood vessels. They collect and move lymph fluid away from tissues into the lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are small bean-shaped organs of lymphatic tissue. The lymph fluid can carry cancer cells from where the cancer started into the lymph nodes. With head and neck cancers, the lymph fluid can sometimes carry cancer cells into the cervical lymph nodes.
- In the early stages, you usually cannot feel the cancer in the lymph nodes. In more advanced stages of cancer, you may feel a lump in the neck as the lymph nodes in the neck get bigger.
- The cervical lymph nodes are grouped into different levels based on where they are in the neck.
Types of Neck dissection
There are 3 main types of neck dissection surgery:
- Radical neck dissection. All the tissue on the side of the neck from the jawbone to the collarbone is removed. The muscle, nerve, salivary gland, and major blood vessel in this area are all removed.
- Modified radical neck dissection. This is the most common type of neck dissection. All lymph nodes are removed. Less neck tissue is taken out than with radical dissection. This surgery may also spare the nerves in the neck and, sometimes, the blood vessels or muscle.
- Selective neck dissection. If cancer has not spread far, fewer lymph nodes have to be removed. The muscle, nerve, and blood vessel in the neck may also be saved.
- Bleeding-Patients may bleed after an operation. Bleeding under the skin after a neck dissection is rare. Sometimes an operative procedure to remove the blood is required. Rarely, a blood transfusion is also needed.
- Infection can occur after any surgical procedure including neck dissection (uncommon)
- Chyle leak, which results in fluid accumulation in the neck from disruption of the thoracic duct (this problem is more common after left sided neck dissections) (rare)
- Wound healing problems requiring additional surgery (rare)
- Diagnosis:This section includes articles about imaging and biopsies. These articles list and describe the types of tests you may undergo if you are being diagnosed for head and neck cancer.
- Surgery and Rehabilitation:This type of treatment involves surgically cutting out as much of the tumor as possible while retaining the structure and function of surrounding anatomy. The various types of surgeries may involve removing part of a structure or removing an entire structure. This section also involves details of eating and breathing rehabilitation following surgical resection.
- Radiation Therapy:In the most basic sense, ionizing radiation damages the DNA of cells as they try to divide and replicate. This article describes types of radiation therapy, when they are used in the treatment of head and neck cancer and side effects a patient may experience.
- Chemotherapy, Biologics, and Other Medications:This type of treatment damages dividing cells. Chemotherapy is the use of medications to destroy cancer cells. This article describes types of chemotherapy, how it is administered and side effects a patient may experience.
- Clinical Trials:A clinical trial is a research study that compares a new treatment regimen against a more standard treatment regimen in a very organized and scientific way. Clinical trials are often recommended for those whose cancer is advanced and not responding to standard treatments.