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Selective Neck Dissection

Posts: 52
Joined: Feb 2013

Has anyone had a selective neck dissection...it would appear that it may be a possibility for me in the near future. Any insight would be appreciated....



fishmanpa's picture
Posts: 1178
Joined: Jan 2013

Hi Jon,

I had a selective neck dissection prior to treatment. As far as insight? What do you want to know? All I know is it was surgery and it hurt! ~lol~  Possible side effects (numbness, nerve/shoulder damage, residual pain etc.) aren't a picnic either! Physical therapy will most likely be needed as part of recovery. You can get a glimpse of what the surgery looks like at http://csn.cancer.org/node/255249 but be forewarned, if you don't do blood and guts, you may want to avoid it ;)


Skiffin16's picture
Posts: 8264
Joined: Sep 2009

I believe there is a very high possibility of you having one n the very near future...

I didn't have a dissection, but many here have and will offer up the goods... Also, there's a lot concerning including photos, on the SuperThread... Dawn had one I believe..



meaganb's picture
Posts: 243
Joined: May 2012

I had one last year. Surgery was just supposed to remove tumor but when they found cancer they also took 47 lymph nodes. The first 3-5 days after surgery were pretty rough for me. My incision when from the middle of my chin to my right ear. I had to stay one night in the hospital because they put a drain in. There was a lot of swelling. It would be best to sleep in a recliner afterwards if one is available b/c if you lay flat for too long the fluid wants to build up but having to elevate an area after surgery is true no matter what part of the body I believe. Honestly the worst pain from it was the extreme soreness I would get after sleeping for a few hours. My entire face hurt pretty badly. I don't really handle pain well though...I'm kind of a wimp! For the most part I felt a lot better after a week or so. I think the stitches stayed in for 2-3 weeks & getting them out was a piece of cake. Don't stress to much. Just make sure your surgeon prescribes a good pain med for afterwards. Mine was a jerk & refused to give me liquid instead choosing to give huge pills when my throat was swollen & sore. Good luck to you!

Posts: 76
Joined: Jul 2012

Hi.  I had one along with a tonsilectomy prior to my radiation.  I had stage III tonsil cancer with one lymph node positive. I think they removed 35 lymph nodes. I was in ICU for 3 days and hospital for 5 total.   People who saw me post-op said I looked like a monster, (only after I healed).  I did not want to see myself. I really didn't have too much pain. I made sure that I was on top of my pain meds.  I agree with the previous comment about the pain meds. They took me off of the morphine at day 2 and I tried to swallow some crushed meds and then told the nurse that I needed the morphine back for a few more days.  After some discussion they ok'd it and I was fine.  My Dr. then gave me liquid hydrocodine for pain and I was ok at home with that. I didn't take crushed pills for about 2 weeks. After the operation I could not raise my left arm to wash my hair but I kept trying and after about a month I could do it.  My Dr said I might not be able to golf for a while or ever again but at 2 months out I went and chipped and putted.  I am now 9 months out and golf weekly.  I still sleep elevated because I have had some lymphadema and sleeping upright does help.  I really only occasionally have pain in shoulder/neck but do get a tight feeling around neck but I am getting used to it.  Over all, the surgery was not that bad.  Let many have said here on this board do not get behind on the pain meds.  I set an alarm and took mine every 4 hours religiously as I am not good with pain.  Good luck and don't worry you will be fine.



dimasbarak's picture
Posts: 3
Joined: Jan 2015

Good Morning, I had a neck dissection on Dec 23 2015 because I had tongue cancer and I also had 6 lymph nodes removed from the right side of my neck. Everything was going ok until about 4 weeks ago when I noticed my neck swelling gradually and getting hard. My Dr said it was normal but every day the swelling is more and more and now I am at the point where it even bothers me when I swallow saliva. I have not had my Radiation/Chemo treatmente yet

Did you have anything like this? I look like if I have a turkey neck.

My email is dimasbarak@yahoo.com please share with me your information if you dont mind


Thank you very much

yensid683's picture
Posts: 262
Joined: Apr 2012

Yes, two.  Both shortly after follow up PET scans.  The first was in October of last year, 3 months post rads that showed a couple of hot spots.  5 nodes removed, long incision down the side of my neck but looking at it, unless you know what it is it appears to be a skin fold.  One node tested 'positive' but for minor, inactive disease.  Fast forward to March, same hot spots showing on the 8 month post treatment PET, referred to another surgeon, a professor of ENT and H&N specialist.  Reopened the same incision, excised 7 more nodes, fortunatly all tested negative.

Both were relatively easy to take, the first was outpatient surgery, the second was just one night in the hospital.  I had little pain and was able to discontinue prescription pain meds within 48 hours.  The only real issue was the numbness post operatively.  They compress and/or move around the nerves so the side of my face and left ear felt like they'd had a major dose of Novacain.  Other than that I had no real issues, recovered well and have just minor, receding numbness. 

I wouldn't worry too much about the selective.  It is the most simple of the dissections and the least damaging.


Posts: 15
Joined: May 2013

I went thru a modified radical neck disection march 2013. Compared to radiation it was a cake walk. It is still early so the nerve damage is still pretty intense. Prior to the neck disection i went thru Trans Oral Robotic surgery. Tonsil and tonsil fossa were removed. Partial glossectomy as well. Finished radiation may 21, 2013. I was doing well until this week. The surgery was not as bad as I thought it was going to be. Stay  positive.

Duggie88's picture
Posts: 650
Joined: Feb 2010


I’m not up on all the technical names but I had a full dissection for malignant neoplasm on the base of my tongue. I was cut from ear to ear and they removed my epiglottis, part of the tongue, a few lymph nodes on the left side, and my uvula. It wasn’t a pretty sight at first but now if you didn’t know I was cut it doesn’t stand out, they went from behind one ear to the other down around the adams apple and closed it with staples. I had a tracheotomy, four drainage tubes, and a feeding tube through my nose and my stay in the hospital lasted 4 days. This was one week before Christmas 2009 and one of my biggest fears was my grandkids would take one look at me on Christmas day and run like crazy into the new year. But my wife did the explaining because I couldn’t speak (she wishes that would have stayed the same today) and they were not fine but OK with it. Overall it is pretty much a blur thanks to liquid oxycodone that I made sure I had a good supply of. Like “T” stated I had some left shoulder damage that made the use of my left arm painful and very limited but 7 months of physical therapy brought it back to normal, or abi-normal that John can speak about.

Overall, if you follow the doctor’s orders you should do fine. I never had my wife wait on me so much as she did back then. Matter of fact I joke with her and tell her she had her chance, she could have OD’d me back then and lived happily ever after. She was quite intimidated with all she had to do but visiting nurses come in for a couple weeks to check on me and coach her. I learned quite a few things back then, how precious life is, and my Katie really does love me. I am very thankful for both.

Good luck and don’t hesitate to ask questions. The people on here are great, they will treat you like family and help to get you over any hurdle that seems to high.

Enjoy the day


MICH4EL's picture
Posts: 73
Joined: Mar 2013

I had a neck dissection on both sides of my neck just before Easter.  There is good information by searching the discussion board, and everyone's treatment and experiences are different, but here are some of mine. 

1. I had both a tonsillectomy, a small tongue dissection and the dual selective neck dissections at the same surgery.  The post-surgery pain was mostly due to the oral cavity surgeries more so than the neck dissections.  It is difficult for me to fully distinguish which caused what symptoms.  Don't know if you will be receiving more than just the neck dissections

2. Major incisions across boths sides of the neck from behind the ears to below the lips.  The incisions themselves were never very painful.  The surgeon used mostly glue to close the incisions, so there were no visible stitches.

3. My neck and shoulders were very stiff and tight due to both swelling from accumulation of lymph fluid and the trauma of the surgery.  Ask for information on stretching and strengthening exercises so you recover faster.  This was the biggest side effect that was due directly to the neck dissection as opposed to my other surgeries.

The most important thing now is to get multiple second opinions. Your circumstances are unique, but also different cancer doctors use different treatments so it is immportant to hear all the options.  Many people with head and neck cancer are not receiving the neck dissections even thought there is cancer in the lymph nodes.  This is in fact the preferred treatment guideline for people with earlier stages when the primary site can be identified and treated surgically.

Ask lots of questions about why a particular treatment is being recommended and what the short-term and long-term effects will be.

Good luck.




lts's picture
Posts: 75
Joined: Nov 2012

Yes. I had one too. Actually had two. First one to remove Submandibular gland and 3 lymph nodes. Second one to remove the fat bed the submandibular gland was nestled in, 27 more lymph nodes and some of the other tissue that was near the gland. Recovery wasn't too bad. Two days at hosp with a very uncomfortable drain in head. The doc put a hole behind my ear and ran a tube along side of neck to just under addams apple. The worst was when he pulled it out. OUCH!!! If you look at picture just below incision near addams apple area you can see a small bump, thats the end of the drain.After that percocet took care of the rest. The incision was along a natural crease in neck and used plastic to close, but you can still see a scar. Little bit of a divot on that side of my neck as well. All the stitches were the disolving type. The picture was taken right after I got to my room. Hope you are OK.



Skiffin16's picture
Posts: 8264
Joined: Sep 2009

I told you not to play with that Light Saber until you finsihed your training with Yoda.....

Actually that looks a lot better than some I have seen....

Great to hear from you brother...

Keep pressing on, things do and will get better...


Posts: 52
Joined: Feb 2013

althought the tube is a little much...I will have needle biopsy on Monday July 15 and meet with MD on July 16 the surgery is scheduled n th 18th if the test is positive.  Node went from 4.2cm to 17 mm through radidation so want to take it out if is positive.  Possible two days in the hopsital --- having it done at MD Anderson in Houston. Thanks for the information and best of luck.

Posts: 52
Joined: Feb 2013



Did you have serious lymphdema after the surgery? If so did it resolve on it own?  thanks.



Posts: 36
Joined: Nov 2014

I had a modified neck dissection over the New Year holiday.  I was cut from left ear to chin.  The left side of my face is still numb as well as my left earlobe.  It's not too bad now as I'm getting somewhat used to it....but it did feel funny at first.  I had a drain for about 4 days after the surgery and I felt much better once that was removed.  I didn't have much pain, only tightness in the neck.  I have no issues with arm movement, but my doctor did mention that it's possible to lose some upward motion in your arm if certain nerves are damaged.  He also said that my earlobe may  remain numb due to having to cut the nerve that sends feeling to it.....oh well.  I do have a scar, but I believe it will go away over time and not stick out like a soar thumb.

I also had a tonsillectomy at the same time to get rid of the my cancer, so that part was much worse than the neck dissection.  You should heal fairly quickly from the neck dissection, but you may experience some side effects like numbness, loss of movement, slight disfigurement, etc.  They only took 13 or 14 of my iymph nodes and thankfully all were negative for cancer.

Good luck to you.....wishing you an easy recovery if you end up having to have surgery.

God bless.

wmc's picture
Posts: 1381
Joined: Jan 2014

I was cut from ear to ear and a neck dissection on both sides. Removed 48 on the left and 38 on the right, and my larynx. I got the feeling back on the right side in about three months, and wish I didn'y. The left side I will never get back. I'm numb from left earload to center of chin. It is where the two come together makes hard to shave. There is a spot that I gag when it touches. Best of luck with the nerves.


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