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Neck Dissection

Written by Amy Hall
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Radical Neck Dissection

Neck dissection is an operation used to remove cancerous tissues in the head and neck. The purpose of radical neck dissection is to remove lymph nodes and other structures in the head and neck that are likely or proven to be cancerous. Variations on this type of surgery depend on the extent of the cancer.

A radical neck dissection is done when cancer has spread widely throughout the neck region, which means that a great deal of tissue is removed. A modified neck dissection removes less tissue, and a selective neck dissection removes even less. This surgery should not be performed if cancer has spread beyond the head and neck, or if the cancer has invaded the bones of the cervical vertebrae (the first seven vertebrae of the spinal column) or the skull. In these cases, an operation will not effectively contain the cancer.

What Is Neck Cancer?

Neck cancer is sometimes referred to as throat cancer, which it is not. Neck cancer often spreads to nearby tissues and into the lymph nodes. Removing these structures is one way to effectively get rid of the cancer and keep it from spreading.

If cancer is widespread in the neck region, veins, muscles and nerves may be removed along with the lymph nodes. The goal is to remove all the cancer while saving as many of the components surrounding the nodes as possible. Neck dissections are done in the hospital under general anesthesia by a head and neck surgeon.

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