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Planned neck dissection to take one node out

VanessaSLO's picture
Posts: 283
Joined: Jul 2012

Hey everyone!

As many of you know, my Dad finished his tx Sept 2012 for BOT cancer with multiple lymph nodes involved. He had chemo/rads. Then he had CT scans and ultrasounds and physycal check-ups where they saw one lymph node still slightly enlarged (firstly 2cm and now in August even smaller: 1,8cm). It's actually no wonder because before tx the package of lymph nodes measured 8 cm in diameter. They performed three needle biopsies (two of them were guided by ultrasound). All three biopsies had inconclusive results due to lack of useful material in nodes.

But they said it is probably just junk and "leftover" from radiation and that lymph node is just damaged.

Today he had his regular check up where all looked good and doctor checked his mouth, tongue and neck. But also his case was now presented to tumour board where they were deciding what to do next: only monitor those nodes regulary and in case of some activitiy they will make a neck dissection to take that suspicious lymph node out, or: take that node out right away.

They decided this last think - to take that node out. He is now having operation after 26th August. They will take this node out and if it looks ok they won't touh other nodes. But if that node shows some C cells in it, they will take out some more nodes.

So even if they take only one node out it is called neck dissection, right? I did not read much about neck dissections on this board because it was not an option for Dad yet. But now it is coming out way too. So, how did you take the operation? How did recovery go? It's probably "walk in the park" compared to rads, right? I hope... But I think that it is better safe than sorry and that it is a good think to take that node out.

Thank you again, I read you every day and pray that you will all be ok!

Sorry for my english, I was typing fast - still at work (in slovenia it is 4.30 pm now).

phrannie51's picture
Posts: 4678
Joined: Mar 2012

more "stuff"....but like you said WAY better to be safe than sorry.  It's obvious they are uncomfortable just doing a wait and see, so they are taking very good care of your dad. 

I didn't have any surgery, but all the talk I've ever heard on here is that it's way easier than chemo/rads....most people leaving the hospital in one or two days....Also the incision, tho scary in the beginning all but disappears in short order.

A whole lot of folks on here have had a dissection, and I know they'll chime in and give you the nitty gritty on the procedure.

jim and i's picture
jim and i
Posts: 1788
Joined: May 2011

Praying for your dad is facing more procedures. I pray they get it all this time.


Posts: 1914
Joined: May 2012

Hey Vanessa !

I had the resect done on both sides......wasn't as bad as some have had it here.  They took my large saliva gland and 7 suspious lymph nodes that were deep ones.  The pain was tolerable....and I had a couple of drains in my neck for a few days.  They kept me in hospital 3 days.  I know this is very scarey for your Father and Mother.....I just wish they could have gotten better data from the biopsy.  But sometimes the cells are tricky....and you don't want to take a chance of re-occurrance.  He probably will have stiches.....which isn't a big deal...just looks worse then it is.  I will keep you all in my prayers, and positives sent that it is just an inflammed node from the previous tx's.  Please keep us updated !  Hugs sent !  Katie

donfoo's picture
Posts: 1649
Joined: Dec 2012

Hi Vanessa,

Your English is fantastic! I always was curious how you mastered English so well.

Sorry to hear about the recommended surgery but it is certainly worth evaluating if they are concerned about the possibility that cancer exists in the nodes. It has always been mentioned as a potential follow on procedure if the scans show origiaqnl cancer remains.

So even if they take only one node out it is called neck dissection, right?

The typical term for surgery to remove tumors post treatment is generally labled "salvage surgery". Of course it is a neck dissection in the basic definition of the procedure but this term further defines the term to when and why. 

I did a quick google on "salvage surgery post treatment" and it is indeed a proper term. Here is a link to a credible sudy/trial on the efficacy of salvage surgery for failed treatment of oropharangeal cancer. There are lots of solid hits as the terms are pretty specific.


VanessaSLO's picture
Posts: 283
Joined: Jul 2012

The doctor used the term exploration of the neck with possible neck dissection. She said that they all believe that there's probably nothing there because all the scans were good. But they are just being careful. We are very glad about that and to tell you the truth, Mom and Dad are not scared. Being thru that horrible rads and chemo this is not that scary anymore. So we' re actually not stressed at all.

It' s good they will do that and we will finally know for sure whether it just necrotic or dead node or if there is any cancerous activity. They will take it out and that will be good. It maybe scares me a bit because that node is very close to jugular vein so I hope when they cut him they can really take it out. 


But we are all ok, enjoying life! Thank you for your loving support, it means everything ro us.


peggylulu's picture
Posts: 375
Joined: Dec 2012

I'm so sorry that your Dad will have to go thru this , but I would rather be safe than sorry . That is the only reason that I had Radiation (just to hopefully get everything). I had 3 nodes removed from my neck just behind and below my right ear and later (1 year) found a lump further down on the top of my shoulder on the same side. I had 3 more nodes removed there (only 1 positive for SCC). Both surgery's were Day surgery's (in and out)and were very easy (hardly any pain) . The only problem is some nerve and muscle damage but hopefully that will go away with time and Physical Therapy . Maybe he will be lucky and not have these problems. Tell him not to worry about the surgery .You didn't say where the surgery site is but if it's where mine was it's a walk in the park compared to Rads .

Grandmax4's picture
Posts: 712
Joined: Dec 2011

November 2,2011, I had radical neck dissection(ear to ear) to remove my epiglottis. My surgery was done by my awesome surgeon, using the di vinci robot. Actually, I had very little pain, and the scar, which was put in a neck crease, is barely visiable.I had no stitches ot staples, my neck was actually glued.

My worse problem with the surgery, was the mucus...it was horrible and still bothers me some after almost 2 years.

After reading about the horrors of chem and radiation, I thank God every day that my team decided to go the "get it out, and forget about it" route


Best of luck to your Dad, he's been to the mountain top, so this should just be a little hill 

hwt's picture
Posts: 2330
Joined: Jun 2012

Mine was done at the time my jaw was removed and rebuilt so tough to say what was what. I will say that entire surgery was by far, easier on me than the rads and chemo. Hoping the node is just inflamed and negative. I did not have any trouble with mucus. Did have trouble raising my arm but after using some exercise bands about a week or two got full range back.

MICH4EL's picture
Posts: 73
Joined: Mar 2013

I had many lymph nodes removed on both sides of my neck, and also had tonsillectomy, tongue biopsy, and radiation.  The lymph node surgery was the least difficult of everything.  Not a walk in the park, but minor compared to other treatments.   Likely side effects include stiff and sore shoulder and neck, pain from the surgery and incision, probably lymphedema or swelling of the neck.  All should be temorary.  Physical therapy will help recovery.



Posts: 839
Joined: May 2013

I had twenty-something nodes taken out during my surgery.  I had my lower left jaw removed and had incisions down past my collar bone up to under my jaw area.  I was stapled (90 total) and in the hospital 12 days.  It sounds much worse than it actually was.  About 2 days were really rough, but the meds got me through.  The rads were tougher on me.  I hope he just has to get the one out and that it's fine.  It's truly amazing what they can do to our bodies and how we recover.  I'll be keeping him in my prayers! 

CivilMatt's picture
Posts: 4373
Joined: May 2012


I had a Jugular Vein Dissection to remove one determined (cancerous) lymph node.  It was one day surgery and most of the feeling has returned to my neck (20 months).  It only hurt a little bit, not much.

I wish you and your father lots of luck, it sounds like his team is watching him very closely.


VanessaSLO's picture
Posts: 283
Joined: Jul 2012

Thanx everyone for sharing your experience. I remember reading this on this board, but just not focusing much on it. Well, I think it's good that they take it out so that we can be sure. And yes, I'm surprised a bit too how closly they monitor him.

But well, you know, in our country health system is still very good. We pay cca 6 % for health insurance from our gross salary (monthly). Those who are not employed and have no income can be insured by his spouse/partner who can then assert him as tax relief. People who are not employed and have no spouses, can apply to employment agency and then they have right for free health insurance - municipality pays the insurance. This system works for decades now, but health services get more expensive every day, so our country (government) put us into position where we have to pay additional insurance by ourselves (it is optional) as a guarantee that we can still have free health services with no additional payment.

So, all in all our insurance is cheap: 6 % from gross salary is obligatory (it covers cca 80% for non life threatening health services and 100% for cancer treatments and other emergency services) + additional insurance which is about 20€ monthly (for those who can afford it and covers the rest - 20% for non life treatening services). So health insurance is available to all citizens. We don't have to pay extra for any check-ups or scans or medicines. Health insurance covers it all.

But due to more corruptive acts of our government and pharmacy lobbies - who knows for how long this system will work.

I hope you could understand what I was trying to say Smile.

debbiejeanne's picture
Posts: 3095
Joined: Jan 2010

at the risk of sounding very stupid, how many lympnodes do we have n our neck?  just wondering.


VanessaSLO's picture
Posts: 283
Joined: Jul 2012

There are around 300 nodes in our neck Smile.

debbiejeanne's picture
Posts: 3095
Joined: Jan 2010



yensid683's picture
Posts: 320
Joined: Apr 2012

When they take just a few nodes, or just one out, it is referred to as a selective neck dissection and because of the complexity of the structures in the neck, they do have to do what might seem like extensive work, but it sounds much scarier than it actually turns out to be.

I was similar to your father, my post treatment scan was called 'great' by my radiation oncologist and at first they were just going to watch it, believing it to be 'junk' as your dad's.  After the tumor board met though they decided to recommend surgery so I had a selective neck dissection, they took out 4 nodes and it was handled as outpatient surgery.

In at 10 and home by 5, general anesthesia, large wad of bandages and a gravity drain that was pulled a couple of days later at my surgeon's office.  Impressive scar that runs from under my ear to just under my adam's apple but it is in a skin fold and unless you know what to look for, it is not noticeable.  Recovery was very quick, I had the surgery on Tuesday and was back to normal activities in a few days.

I actually had a second one in March of this year, the next scan still showed nodes that were missed by the first surgeon.  Not much different with the second except a different doctor, and an overnight stay instead of outpatient.

One node was very suspicious and was sent for testing right away but was negative as were all of the other nodes and scar tissue removed.

Pain meds were only needed for a couple of days and even then not in the doses that were prescribed.

Your dad should do just fine, especially since the node is shrinking.  I hope all turns out great for you and he.


Duggie88's picture
Posts: 703
Joined: Feb 2010

Your english is great.

I was cut from ear to ear so I guess I had the full neck disection. If only taking out some lymphnodes on one side I don't see that being to bad. I would say your right to it being a walk in the park compared to radiation. Dad should be fine.

My wife tried to slip the surgeon 20 bucks to slice my jugular vein, he wanted 30, she declined, since then he received many a co-pay from me. He made out and now my wife is stuck with me.

Thoughts and prayers for Dad..........take care


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