The purpose of a neck dissection is to remove the lymph nodes in the neck that are at risk as cancer spreads from the main tumor. If a suspicious lymph node is seen on one of your scans, can be felt in the neck or the risk of the cancer spreading to these lymph nodes is high, then you will need a neck dissection.
What Does Neck Dissection Involve?
Most commonly, neck dissection involves an incision designed within a skin crease beginning below the ear and coursing down across the neck to the middle. Head and neck surgeons at Jefferson will identify and protect multiple nerves and blood vessels while removing a group of lymph nodes that drain lymphatic fluid and possible cancer cells from the primary tumor location.
Should the tumor involve muscles, nerves or blood vessels, your surgeon may have to remove these structures along with the tumor.
If lymphoma is suspected based on the needle aspiration of the neck mass, then the decision may be made to make a much smaller incision and remove one node in order to make a diagnosis.
Not all neck masses are cancer, and your surgeon may explain to you that a neck dissection to remove a benign cyst may be indicated. If you have cancer, the need for radiation or chemotherapy will depend on the type of cancer and the amount of spread from the initial location.